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Former Baltimore officer and man he punched on viral video testify in assault trial

A former Baltimore Police officer caught on video pummeling a man on a city sidewalk last year testified in his own defense Friday, claiming that many of the punches he threw at DaShawn McGrier missed the target.

Williams has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and misconduct in office. He waived his right to a jury trial, leaving it up to Baltimore Circuit Judge Yolanda Tanner to determine his fate in a bench trial.

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Cellphone footage of the incident that went viral last year showed Williams confronting and striking McGrier multiple times on a sidewalk in the 2500 block of E. Monument St. of East Baltimore. Body camera footage from both Williams and a second officer, Brandon Smith-Saxon, provided more angles and details of the altercation. The 26-year-old Williams resigned the day of the incident, just six months into being a sworn officer. He was charged two days later.

Despite the footage showing a bloodied and beaten McGrier, Williams said it didn’t tell the whole story.

“I threw maybe 15 punches, but made contact six times,” Williams testified.

Williams also asserted that McGrier struck him about four times, adding that he received medical attention at Mercy Medical Center due to bruising on his face and a cut in his mouth. Williams’ testimony was cut short due to technical difficulties that prevented the body camera footage from projecting sound into the courtroom. It will resume Monday.

McGrier, 26, suffered a fractured jaw and ribs, swelling around his eye and ringing in his ears from Williams’ punches, his attorney has said. McGrier was hospitalized for three days, according to testimony.

Defense attorney Thomas Maronick argued that the hospital stay of only three days shows, “The injury was not serious in any regard.”

“Essentially, he was bruised,” Maronick said. “If he was in the hospital for a month or a few weeks, maybe it would be different.”

McGrier was the first to testify and was grilled by a second Williams attorney, Henry Roland Barnes. Barnes started his line of questioning by asking about McGrier’s previous convictions, including for narcotics.

Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Trostle objected, and said the extent of McGrier’s injuries showed Williams’ actions were “blatantly excessive” and showed the former officer’s intent to seriously injury McGrier.

A third witness, Matt Hanna, the executive director of Next One Up, a nonprofit that mentors high-risk young men in Baltimore, testified about Williams’ character. Hannah, who had known Williams since 2008, described the ex-officer as “extremely hardworking and respectful.”

Although the trial was expected to reach a verdict Friday, it is set to continue Monday morning.

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