The “Black Lives Matter” left has a new poster child. She is Dajerria Becton.
Becton was part of a group of African-American teenagers involved in a confrontation with the police that stemmed from a pool party in McKinney, Texas. A police officer, Eric Casebolt, forcibly subdued her, driving her face into the ground and his knee into her back and, she says, pulling on her braids.
Casebolt also drew his gun after several African-American males moved towards him while he was subduing Becton. The incident and portions of the larger confrontation were recorded on a cell phone video (posted below).
When a police officer uses physical force against a teenage girl and draws a gun on the unarmed, the matter is serious. That’s why Casebolt has been placed on leave, with pay, while his actions are investigated.
When viewed in context, however, did Casebolt act improperly?
First, let’s describe the context. Casebolt was responding to citizens complaining that a group of unruly teenagers crashed their pool party. The situation was bad enough that a fight had broken out.
According to Benet Embry, an African-American radio personality who lives in the neighborhood:
A few THUGS spoiled a COMMUNITY event by fighting, jumping over fences into a PRIVATE pool, harassing and damaging property.
When Casebolt arrived, the scene was chaotic. Thus, reportedly, he ordered the crowd to disperse.
Unfortunately, many members of the crowd refused to comply. Thus, Casebolt and other officers who had arrived on the scene ordered them to sit down, a reasonable alternative method of gaining control over the situation.
Again, some members of the crowd disobeyed the order. Becton was one of them.
Based on his review of the cell phone video Andrew Branca of Legal Insurrection describes Becton’s behavior as follows:
First, she stood near her friends who had obeyed the order to sit down. Then, she wandered away, but soon returned, still standing rather than complying with the order to sit (or else disperse).
Casebolt then repeated his order to disperse. Becton “appears to be dispersing off to the right, but in fact never moves more than 10 or so feet away, stopping at that point to continue engaging with other members of the non-compliant crowd.” Casebolt then resorted to the physical force that has become the centerpiece of the video.
Seeing Becton being manhandled, several members of the dispersed crowd rushed towards Casebolt. At least two men got very close to him.
Branca says that Casebolt drew his gun at this point and his potential assailants then ran away. However, as I see the video, the two young men backed off some when Casebolt turned towards them, before he drew the gun.
Has Casebolt done anything unlawful in this scenario? Branca argues that he hasn’t. Becton repeatedly refused to follow proper orders issued by the police. Consequently, says Branca, Casebolt had the right to use physical force to obtain compliance. The force he used wasn’t deadly; nor, thankfully, does it appear to have caused injury.
What about drawing the gun? Branca again finds that Casebolt did not act unlawfully. Having been charged by two males approximately his size, Casebolt had reason to fear for his safety. This, says Branca, entitled him to draw his gun.
The folks in the “internal affairs” folks at the police department will have to determine whether, at any stage of the confrontation, Casebolt acted improperly. For example, did he reasonably perceive a potentially deadly force attack when he went for his gun, or had the two males already backed off by that point?
It looks to me like the threat to Casebolt’s safety was minimal at best by the time he went for the gun. The nearby officers seem to have felt the same way. They tried to grab Casebolt before giving chase to the fleeing African-American males.
As for Becton, was Casebolt rougher with her than he needed to be? Possibly.
But it’s unrealistic to expect perfect calibration in the use of force. In the absence of gratuitous acts of violence such as punching, and assuming that Becton didn’t suffer injury, we shouldn’t be quick to second-guess Casebolt’s level of force.
Nor, in all events, should we be quick to assume racism on the part of the police or the people who were holding the pool party. Folks don’t like it when their parties are crashed by noisy teenagers. Police officers don’t like it when teenage party-crashers refuse to obey their orders. This is true regardless of the teenagers’ race.
One of the teens says that a white woman at the pool party told members of the crowd to “go back go back to your Section 8 home,” a reference to federal housing assistance for low-income people. If so, the comment is ugly but not racial.
The same teenager alleges that someone called at least one African-American a “black effer.” If so, this would be evidence of racism on the part of the name-caller. But it wouldn’t convert the incident as a whole into a racist episode.
I’ll give the last word to Embry, the African-American radio personality:
Look, I LIVE in this community and this ENTIRE incident is NOT racial at all. . . .WE have other issues that NEED our attention other [than]. . . made up make believe causes.
The cell phone video is below: