A video surfaced online of a Baltimore police officer repeatedly punching a man. Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle said that "the officer involved has been suspended while we investigate the totality of this incident."
Witnesses and friends of a former Baltimore police officer trying to stay out of prison insisted Friday that his violent assault on an East Baltimore man was out of character. To the judge determining the officer’s fate, one voice lingered above the others.
“Why are you following me? Why are you harassing me?" Baltimore Circuit Judge Yolanda Tanner said in open court.
Those were among the videotaped words last summer of Dashawn McGrier, 26, seconds before that police officer, Arthur Williams, also 26, hit him over and over again, breaking the man’s ribs and jaw. McGrier spent three days in the hospital, underwent therapy and still wears a back brace, among other ailments.
On Friday, Tanner sentenced Williams to nine months in prison on misconduct in office charges, meaning he will spend more time behind bars than the six months he spent as a sworn member of the force. She also sentenced Williams to five years in prison on second-degree assault for the attack, but suspended all but the two days he already has served.
Williams was handcuffed in court and taken away to begin serving his sentence. Tanner also placed him on two years’ probation.
The video — which went viral last summer — showed McGrier walking away from the officer, something that clearly angered Williams. McGrier had refused to give Williams his ID on a sidewalk in the 2500 block of E. Monument Street in East Baltimore.
In court Friday, the judge looked directly at Williams and told him, “A citizen does get to walk away from you, even if you’re a police officer.”
She added: “I believe based on the evidence submitted, this is more than a mistake or a misunderstanding of the use of force."
Assistant State’s attorney Stephen Trostle asked for a one-year prison sentence, exceeding sentencing guidelines because the former officer’s actions were “unnecessary, unprovoked and violent."
Not only that, Trostle stressed, for Williams to avoid any jail time would add fuel to the public distrust between law enforcement and the people it’s supposed to protect.
“Once in a while the court has to make an example," Trostle said. “No matter how nice of a guy Williams was with other people in the past.”
McGrier spoke briefly, offering a “victim impact statement” and describing his injuries and the damage caused by the attack. He said he had to undergo physical therapy for months and continues to wear a back brace. But McGrier said he’s thankful just to have survived.
“It’s a blessing because other people who have been in this situation unfortunately did not come out alive,” McGrier told The Baltimore Sun. “I feel like I can start my process of closure.”
When it was Williams’ time to speak, he began by apologizing directly to McGrier, who did not respond. Covering the side of his face toward Williams, McGrier remained stoic.
Williams went on to reveal that when he was younger, he too was assaulted by a police officer. Mistaking Williams with another kid causing trouble, that police officer confronted Williams and struck him, he said.
Breaking News Alerts Newsletter
As it happens
Get updates on the coronavirus pandemic and other news as it happens with our free breaking news email alerts.
“From that day, I wanted to be a cop to be better and then I made the same mistake,” Williams said. “That was the hardest thing.”
Williams won numerous awards and graduated top of his police academy class, according to his attorney, Thomas Maronick Jr.
He resigned the day of the incident and was charged with first-degree assault and misconduct in office two days later. After a trial in June conducted without a jury — at Williams’ request — Judge Tanner found him guilty of second-degree assault and misconduct in office, ruling him not guilty of the first-degree charge.
At the hearing, Tanner addressed why she opted for the lesser charge.
“I just didn’t see the evidence that he was going to do serious injury,” she said.