Baltimore police officer charged with assault pleads not guilty; attorney says video doesn't tell full story

The Baltimore police officer who was captured on a viral video last week punching a man repeatedly in an encounter pleaded not guilty Wednesday to assault and misconduct.

Arthur Williams, 25, was indicted on Tuesday and turned himself in that evening. He has resigned from the force.

Williams was led into Baltimore Circuit Court on Wednesday wearing a yellow jumpsuit and shackles.

“He attacked a citizen without justification,” Assistant State’s Attorney StacyAnn Llewellyn told Judge Charles Peters. She asked that Williams remain jailed until his trial.

Llewellyn said the officer was a threat to the community.

“In what way?” Peters asked. “You have a gentleman here who has no criminal record.”

Williams’ attorney said his client was an upstanding citizen: A Marine sergeant, a young husband and father, a man who cared for his disabled mother.

“We strongly disagree with the characterization that this was an unprovoked incident,” attorney Thomas Maronick Jr. told the judge.

Peters ordered Williams released, but said he may not possess a gun or contact the alleged victim.

The cellphone footage of the encounter Saturday has circulated widely online.

It shows a police officer confronting a man on a street. The man shouts in the officer’s face and smacks the officer’s hand off his chest. The officer begins throwing punches with both fists.

“I got all that,” says a voice off camera, ostensibly the person recording. “I got all that. Don’t worry about it.”

After the hearing Wednesday, Maronick said the video doesn’t tell the full story.

Williams “looks very much forward to his day in court, his chance to tell his side,” Maronick said. “The perception that the public has is, I think, a different one from what the facts will show.”

Maronick declined to say more. Williams is scheduled for trial Oct. 23 in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Attorney Warren Brown said Dashawn McGrier, 26, suffered a fractured jaw and ribs, swelling around his eye and ringing in his ears from Williams’ punches.

Brown said he was pursuing restitution for McGrier, a warehouse worker at Dietz & Watson, and they hoped to avoid a lawsuit.

Brown said Williams had taunted and harassed McGrier for months.

“There were obviously some prior contacts,” said Maronick, the officer’s attorney. “I can’t get into specifics.”

Williams graduated from the police academy four months ago at the top of his class. He served as class commander and won awards for leadership.

He grew up in Baltimore near North Avenue and earned a scholarship to attend Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. He attended McDaniel College in Westminster for three years, played on the football team, and ran track and field, the college spokeswoman said. He enlisted in the Marines in 2013, his attorney said, and volunteered in the community.

“This is a man who’s a spectacular person,” his attorney said. “No history of violence during his time as a police officer.”

Saturday was not the first encounter between Williams and McGrier.

In June, Williams tried to cite a woman for allegedly smoking marijuana when McGrier grabbed her hand-rolled cigar and tried to run, Williams wrote in charging documents.

He wrote that McGrier “took a fighting stance,” and they ended up tussling on the ground. Williams wrote that McGrier tried to hit him, and incited the crowd to attack him.

“Mr. McGrier stated several times that he would kill this officer once he was released from prison,” Williams wrote.

McGrier was charged with assaulting Williams, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. He is scheduled for trial next week.

Brown called Williams’ account of that encounter “totally inaccurate.” He said he expects the charges against his client to be dropped.

Outside the courthouse Wednesday, Maronick condemned comments on the cellphone video by leaders of the police union. Union President Lt. Gene Ryan called Williams’ actions another “black eye” for the department.

“The union, to some extent, threw him under the bus,” Maronick said. “The police union and its leadership is supposed to be representing its members. They’re supposed to be talking about their due process.”

City leaders have expressed concern that the incident will further strain relations between police and the public.

Mayor Catherine Pugh and interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle have described the video as disturbing. Tuggle spoke of the officer’s “repeated head strikes.”

Some people called for protests after the video surfaced, Brown said. The attorney said he was ready to appear publicly to calm tensions.

A second officer in the video has been placed on administrative duties while police investigate. His name has not been released. Prosecutors say they will not charge him with a crime.

The encounter is the latest blemish for the Police Department already under a court-enforced consent decree mandating sweeping reforms. U.S. Justice Department investigators have accused the department of widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory practices.

A police spokesman on Wednesday confirmed the resignation of Officer Spencer P. Moore, a 14-year veteran of the department. Moore was charged with drug possession and distribution after Baltimore County police said they saw him making a drug deal in a Woodlawn parking lot last month.

Online court records do not list his attorney. Moore resigned Aug. 1.

This story has been updated with information from McDaniel College on Williams’ time on campus.

tprudente@baltsun.com

twitter.com/tim_prudente

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