Baltimore officer from viral beating video resigns; officials considering assault charges against officer

The Baltimore police officer caught on video punching a man repeatedly this past weekend has resigned and prosecutors are considering filing second-degree assault charges against him, interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said.

The beating of Dashawn McGrier, 26, by the officer Saturday morning in East Baltimore was captured on cellphone video that circulated widely online. The police department suspended the officer with pay later Saturday.

Tuggle called the incident “disturbing” — singling out the officer’s “repeated head strikes” to the man. He said he could not comment further because the matter remains under active criminal investigation.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office has declined to comment since the incident occurred.

The Police Department has not released the name of the officer, but McGrier’s attorney, Warren Brown, identified him as Arthur Williams, who he said has taunted and harassed McGrier for months.

“This was personal; it was not professional,” Brown said. “It was, ‘I’m the police and I have the power.’”

McGrier, who suffered a fractured jaw and ribs, swelling around his eye and ringing in his ears, was not charged in Saturday’s incident.

He was expected to be released from the hospital Monday, Brown said.

Williams, who graduated from the Baltimore police training academy in April and has been with the department since last year, could not be reached for comment.

“This was a cowardly act on the part of Williams,” Brown said. “This was bullying.”

The attorney said he is pursuing restitution payments from the city and hopes “it doesn’t come to a lawsuit.”

Tuggle said he also viewed two separate police body-camera videos from the incident, which he described as being “relatively consistent” with the public video.

Brown said the feud began months ago when McGrier, a warehouse worker at Dietz & Watson, saw some neighborhood children being hassled by Williams and urged them to tell their parents on the officer.

“From that point on, he directed his ire on my client,” Brown said.

Williams would taunt McGrier when he passed him in the neighborhood, Brown said.

The feud escalated in June, when Williams attempted to cite a woman for allegedly smoking marijuana, Brown said.

According to charging documents Williams wrote about the June incident, McGrier grabbed the marijuana and ran, then turned and “took a fighting stance.”

The two men ended up on the ground with McGrier trying to hit the officer with his fists and elbows while inciting the crowd to attack Williams, Williams wrote. Someone in the crowd called out, ‘Yea, it’s only one of him, let’s get his a--,” the officer wrote.

“Mr. McGrier has a history of fighting with police officers and resisting arrest,” Williams wrote in the documents charging McGrier with assaulting the officer, disorderly conduct, obstructing and hindering, and resisting arrest.

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

Brown called the officer’s account “totally inaccurate.” He said he expects the case to be dismissed.

Tuggle said no complaints were filed following the June incident, but that it is being reviewed by the department. He said officers are trained not to allow emotions related to their dealings with citizens to affect their actions, and the officer should not have allowed the June incident to affect how he handled his encounter with McGrier on Saturday.

“If it were borne out of emotion, we are trained — we should be trained — to never act in an emotional way, particularly when it comes to engaging with citizens,” Tuggle said.

At Williams’ graduation from the police academy, he received awards for top performance, including for high marks in "defense tactics, physical training and emergency vehicle operations,” for his "academic achievement, professional attitude, appearance, ability to supervise,” and for his "tireless and unwavering dedication" and "outstanding leadership ability,” according to a video of the graduation ceremony.

The Police Department said the incident Saturday began after two officers stopped McGrier, let him go, then approached him again to give him a citizen contact sheet.

“When he was asked for his identification, the situation escalated when he refused,” the department said. “The police officer then struck the man several times.”

Brown said McGrier was sitting on some steps when Williams passed by in his vehicle. Moments later, he 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 McGrier, Brown said.

"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.”

The department suspended the officer with pay shortly after the incident Saturday. A second officer in the video, who has not been identified, also was placed on administrative duties. Per state law, officers are placed on paid suspension while an investigation is conducted. Only officers charged with felonies can be suspended without pay.

Williams was still in his probationary period as a new officer, Tuggle said. Police officers in their probationary period typically can be fired without going through the internal disciplinary process. But the state Law Enforcement Bill of Rights makes an exception for officers on probation who are accused of brutality.

Tuggle said Monday that he is still reviewing the actions of the second officer during the incident. He said the second officer, who has not been named, had an obligation to prevent abuse by the first officer, but also to protect himself during the incident. He said that during the incident, other members of the public were gathered around, some “with sticks in their hands.”

“He had an obligation to keep himself safe. That’s hugely important,” Tuggle said.

Baltimore NAACP officials have called for the second officer to be fired and for both men to face criminal prosecution.

Mayor Catherine Pugh on Saturday called the encounter between the first officer and McGrier “disturbing.” She said she was in touch with Tuggle and had “demanded answers and accountability.”

“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.

The city entered into a federal consent decree in 2017 after the U.S. Justice Department found officers routinely violated people’s constitutional rights.

Ken Thompson, the court-appointed consent decree monitor, said in a statement late Saturday that he had conveyed to Tuggle that the incident “warrants immediate investigation,” and that his monitoring team will be “watching closely in the coming days” to see how the department handles that work.

“This is an important moment for the Baltimore Police Department,” Thompson said. “It is an opportunity for the department to show the Monitoring team, the court, and the community that when its officers are involved in an incident that raises serious questions about compliance with department policies regarding the use of force (not to mention the U.S. Constitution) it will move swiftly to conduct a thorough, transparent, and fair investigation.”

Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the union that represents rank-and-file officers, had also said Saturday that he believed Tuggle took “the appropriate action” by suspending the officer pending an investigation.

“I’d like to believe that there is more to it, but obviously, it really makes us look bad,” Ryan said. “We don’t need another black eye.”

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

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