Expert: Suspect Didn't Pose a Threat When Dover Officer Kicked H - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Expert: Suspect Didn't Pose a Threat When Dover Officer Kicked Him

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Cpl. Thomas Webster Cpl. Thomas Webster

DOVER, Del. (AP)- An expert in police tactics and use of force said Wednesday that he thinks a white police officer in Delaware delivered a "vicious blow" in kicking a black suspect in the head, breaking his jaw and knocking him out.
    
But a judge prohibited former San Jose, California, police officer Ron Martinelli from using the word "vicious" while testifying in the assault trial of Dover police officer Thomas Webster IV.
    
The judge also prohibited Martinelli from giving his opinion on the amount of force delivered to Lateef Dickerson's head, saying his estimate was too imprecise for scientific certainty.
    
Police dash cam video shows Webster kicking Dickerson in 2013 as Dickerson, who officers believed was armed with a gun, slowly complied with commands to get on the ground.
    
In front of the jury, Martinelli testified that Webster was not justified in using such force against Dickerson because he did not present an "objectively reasonable threat" at the time.
    
"At the time that force was applied, he was not resisting arrest," said Martinelli, who acknowledged the video shows Dickerson was slow to comply with police commands. Officers can be heard ordering Dickerson at least three times to get on the ground before he began to do so.
    
But Martinelli said that just before the kick, Dickerson did not present a threat to the officer's safety or any indication that he might try to flee.
    
"He's got both palms on the ground. He's got one knee on the ground," Martinelli said. ".... There is no reasonable threat to the officers."
    
Webster's attorney has argued the officer's actions were justified as he and other officers responded to reports of a fight involving a large group of people and a man matching Dickerson's description armed with a gun.
    
Defense attorney James Liguori also has maintained Webster's indictment in May was the result of "state machinations" and an "abuse of power." A grand jury declined to indict the officer after the encounter, but a second grand jury later indicted Webster.
    
Liguori has argued in court papers that the decision to take the case to a second grand jury with no new evidence was a politically motivated response to nationwide scrutiny of police encounters with black citizens.
    
If convicted of felony assault, Webster faces a maximum eight years in prison, although guidelines call for zero to two years behind bars. He also would be prohibited from owning guns or working as a police officer.
    
Webster rejected an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault in return for surrendering his certification and promising to never work as a police officer again.

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