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State and Local, Community and Government Leaders Sound off on Arrest of Dover PD Officer

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Lots of people are sounding off after a Dover police officer was arrested in a case of alleged police brutality.

Monday a Kent County grand jury indicted Cpl. Thomas Webster on a second-degree assault charge.

Webster turned himself in Monday. He was arraigned and released on $5,000 bond.

The charge against him stems from an August 2013 incident. According to Dover Police, Webster kicked a suspect in the head while taking him into custody. Police say that person, since identified as Lateef Dickerson, was knocked unconscious and was later found to have a broken jaw.

Outside Dover City Hall Tuesday leaders of the area's African-American community gathered.

Rita Mishoe Paige, vice president of the Central Delaware branch of the NAACP, called the indictment a victory.

"This indictment is a step in the right direction for pursuing and achieving justice for all," she said. "We the people will not tolerate police misconduct, police brutality. Violence begets violence."

Mishoe Paige did add the NAACP wants to work with not against local police.

In 2014 a Kent County grand jury looked at Webster's actions and chose not to indict. This January Matt Denn replaced Beau Biden as the state's attorney general.

"It was a closed case when I took office," Denn said outside Legislative Hall Tuesday afternoon. "It came back to my attention last week. After reviewing it with senior prosecutors, we decided it should be presented to a grand jury again."

"The fact that the grand jury did not initially return an indictment is disturbing to us, particularly in light of the graphic information available at the time," said Anthony Wallace, the pastor at Crossroad Christian Church in Dover.

There is dash cam video of the incident at a gas station on North US 13. Kathleen Macrae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware, has seen that video.

"It's 15 seconds. It's shocking. But it's not Freddie Gray. And it's not North Charleston," she said.

The ACLU of delaware is currently suing the Dover Police Department on behalf of Dickerson. Macrae says the suit was filed before the ACLU had even seen that video.

As for whether the public will see it, for now it's not being released. That's a decision local NAACP President Lamar Gunn agrees with, though he thinks it should come out eventually.

"I don't think the time is now. I don't have control over the video, so I can't make that call," said Gunn. "But if it were up to me, I wouldn't release the video any time soon."

The US Attorney's Office reviewed this case and found no civil rights violation.

Dover PD did an internal investigation. It found Webster acted outside department policy. Department officials say appropriate action was then taken.

Webster had been on paid administrative leave. He returned to duty in June 2014. This time he's been suspended without pay pending the outcome of this case.

Jim Ligouri, Webster's attorney, questioned the motives behind the indictment and the decision to take the case before a grand jury a second time.

He said the evidence hadn't changed. But the atmosphere had.

"Tom Webster is innocent of this allegation," he said in a statement. "Tom Webster was defending us from a noted gang member... and armed robber."

A search of the Dover PD website shows Dickerson has had other run-ins with its officer. Dickerson was arrested on multiple charges, including weapons charges, in July 2014. That is nearly a year after the alleged brutality incident.

According to the Delaware Department of Corrections, currently Dickerson lives in New Castle County and is on probation for a DUI incident unrelated to the incident at the gas station in Dover.

During Tuesday afternoon's news conference in Dover, Mayor Robin Christiansen addressed the possibility of protests and perhaps other reactions to the indictment. All of this comes in the wake of protests and riots in baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray.

"We will certainly honor the first amendment rights of any individuals and groups, who wish to express peaceful outrage. However, we will not permit acts of lawlessness," Christiansen said.

"This is a city where all lives matter. Therefore, we will not harm our city. We will not damage our city. We will not loot, pillage or burn our city," said Wallace.

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