Del. DOJ: Rehoboth Police Officer's Use of Force Justified - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. DOJ: Rehoboth Police Officer's Use of Force Justified

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Cellphone video stills of the April 7 arrest. Cellphone video stills of the April 7 arrest.

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del.- A Delaware Department of Justice investigation has found that a Rehoboth Beach police officer was justified by law to Taser and kick a man resisting arrest.

ThE DOJ notified Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks of its findings on Monday.

The incident in question happened on April 7, when Rehoboth police officers were dispatched to the Crosswinds Motel on Rehoboth Avenue for a disorderly person complaint. According to the DOJ's review,  34-year-old Jeremy Anderson, of Harrisburg, Pa., asked for the key to a room that was not under his name, and when denied by the motel's manager, began screaming profanities and verbally abusing her.

The DOJ found that when two officers attempted to detain Anderson, he began to struggle with them. When they were unable to handcuff or subdue Anderson, Senior Cpl. Robert Whitman- a 12-year veteran of the force- began stunning Anderson with a Taser several times. The review found that at this time attempts were made to handcuff Anderson, who then tried to bite Whitman's leg, who responded with a kick to Anderson's head. Whitman then placed his boot on Anderson's head to keep him from moving or biting, the DOJ said, which noted two witnesses observed Anderson's attempt to bite Whitman. The officers eventually subdued and cuffed him.

A portion of the incident was captured on a cellphone video made by one of the witnesses, which the DOJ used in its investigation. DOJ investigators met with that witness and also attempted to interview Anderson, but the DOJ claims he declined the interview request.

The DOJ said its analysis into the investigation concluded that from the moment he first confronted the motel manager, Anderson was verbally and physically combative. He was also observed pushing his visibly pregnant girlfriend who was with him, the DOJ said. The DOJ noted in its review that Anderson had been struggling with police from the time they made contact with him. As a result, the DOJ concluded that under state law, Whitman was justified in kicking Anderson to protect himself from Anderson's bite attempts. Additionally, the DOJ said Whitman's placement of his boot on Anderson's head to prevent further attempts at biting him were also justified.

"Given the duration of the struggle between Anderson and police and their inability to arrest him despite the escalating use of physical force, Whitman reasonably believed that his actions were necessary to effect the arrest as well as protect himself from harm," the DOJ concluded.

However, the decision from the Department of Justice doesn't mean Cpl. Whitman will not be disciplined. According to Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks, Whitman is facing disciplinary action after the Dover Police Department conducted a separate investigation, finding he violated Rehoboth Police Rules and Regulations for use of force.

Banks says the Rehoboth Beach City Manager will determine the proper discipline within the next several weeks.


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