A Black Baltimore police officer has been suspended with pay after he was caught on a viral video repeatedly punching a man before tackling him in front of a liquor store on Saturday.
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the incident occurred outside of Q’s Bar and Liquors in East Baltimore. The victim, 26-year-old Dashawn McGrier, was stopped by the officer, identified by his attorney as Arthur Williams, and an argument ensued after Williams initially let McGrier go before coming back and demanding to see identification.
Witnesses say that Williams began shoving McGrier and berating him. By the time the video starts, McGrier is backed up against the wall and pushes away the officer’s hand after he attempts another shove.
Williams responds with a flurry of punches and a knee strike before tackling McGrier onto a stoop as the camera rolls. Williams’ unnamed partner – who was placed on administrative duty – offered a half-hearted attempt to stop the assault.
Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said that the incident is under investigation.
“The officer involved has been suspended while we investigate the totality of this incident,” Tuggle said to the Sun, adding that he was “deeply disturbed” by the video. “Part of our investigation will be reviewing body worn camera footage.”
Police said a second officer on the scene at the time of the incident was placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of the investigation.
McGrier’s attorney, Warren Brown, said McGrier was not being charged with a crime, and was taken to a hospital for X-rays of his jaw, nose and ribs. Brown said McGrier had a previous run-in with Williams on June 26 that resulted in McGrier being charged with assaulting the officer, disorderly conduct, obstructing and hindering, and resisting arrest.
Vanessa Herring, a reporter for Baltimore NBC-affiliate WBAL, tweeted a video sent to her by a friend of McGrier’s showing the June 26 incident. In that video, Williams has McGrier pinned down on the ground as bystanders ask “what did he do?”
McGrier’s attorney tells me his client was charged in a June 26th incident involving the same officer.
Online court records show McGrier was released from jail June 28th.
— Vanessa Herring (@VanessaWBAL) August 12, 2018
“It seems like this officer had just decided that Dashawn was going to be his punching bag,” Brown said. “And this was a brutal attack that was degrading and demeaning to my client, to that community, and to the police department.”
Brown said in both incidents, McGrier was targeted without justification by Williams. Brown said McGrier was sitting on steps when Williams passed by in his police cruiser, then moments later was walking down the street when the officer, now on foot, told him to stop without giving him a reason.
“My client was saying, ‘What is this all about? You don’t even have probable cause,’” Brown said. That’s when Williams began shoving him, Brown said.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement late Saturday night, that the incident was “disturbing.”
“We are working day and night to bring about a new era of community-based, Constitutional policing and will not be deterred by this or any other instance that threatens our efforts to re-establish the trust of all citizens in the Baltimore Police Department,” the mayor said.
Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP and current Democratic nominee for Maryland governor, condemned the officer’s actions in a statement, saying the video “shows just how far community-police relations have fallen in Baltimore, as well as the work that must be done in partnership with city officials to restore trust.”
“Long term,” he added, “we need to be investing in our communities and recruiting police officers who have the temperament, tools, and training to keep us safe without resorting to unnecessary violence.”
The city entered into a federal consent decree in 2017 after the U.S. Justice Department under then-President Barack Obama found Baltimore cops routinely violated people’s constitutional rights in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray.
City Councilman Brandon Scott said the department did the right thing by suspending the officer and said that he was assured by Tuggle that the incident would be handled properly. He also said that the officer should be fired.
“You see that video and you see what we are trying to prevent in the police department,” said Scott, who is chair of the council’s public safety committee. “It goes against the consent decree and the work we’re trying to do to rebuild trust between the community and the police department.”