Days after a dramatic video surfaced of a Texas police officer pulling a gun and screaming at young people at a community pool, the teenage girl he forced to the ground has spoken out. So have local residents who back the police.
The officer who briefly pulled a gun and then held the teenager on the ground — at one point by kneeling on her back — has been identified as Cpl. Eric Casebolt. He has been put on leave, but the video record of him shouting profanities and ordering swimsuit-clad youths to get on the ground has renewed a broader conversation over the proper use of police force and the dynamics of race in America.
The teenage girl who was pushed to the ground and briefly detained is black; Casebolt is white. Many critics of the police action at the Craig Ranch North Community Pool say that black teens at the outdoor party were targeted.
“Everything could’ve been solved way better than what it was,” says Tatiana Rhodes, 19, who tells local TV news WFAA that she organized the party along with her mother and sister. “I mean, there were other officers that were actually nice to people.”
Rhodes and her sister, 15, say that they can’t stop thinking about the incident; her sister calls it “horrific.”
ADVISORY: This video contains profanity and violence.
McKinney’s police department says it took at least 10 units to calm the scene at the Craig Ranch North Community Pool, and that the first officers arrived around 7:15 p.m. local time Friday. They were answering residents’ concerns about “multiple juveniles at the location, who do not live in the area or have permission to be there, refusing to leave,” the department said Sunday.
The teenager, whose age was initially reported as 14 and has since been listed as 15, spoke to local Fox 4 News, saying of the officer who grabbed her, “He told me to keep walking, and I kept walking. And then, I’m guessing he thought we were saying rude stuff to him.”
She described how her arm had been twisted around her back, how her hair had been pulled and how her back hurt. She added, “Him getting fired is not enough.”
But some homeowners who live near the pool have backed the police in the matter. Fox 4 reports that someone put up a sign at the pool Sunday thanking the officers for their work. The station also spoke to a woman who didn’t want to be identified on camera.
“They were just doing the right thing when these kids were fleeing and using profanity and threatening security guards,” the white resident says of the police.
On Sunday, McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley said:
“A formal investigation into the incident has been started, and the officer involved has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation.
“The McKinney Police Department is committed to treating all persons fairly under the law. We are committed to preserving the peace and safety of our community for all of our citizens.”
At a news conference Sunday, Conley refused to discuss what one questioner called a history of racial tension in McKinney.
This background about the town comes from the Dallas Morning News:
“McKinney attracted national attention in 2004 after the Police Department’s tactics were called into question by the U.S. Department of Justice. Racial tensions between police and residents in an east-side neighborhood escalated following four execution-style slayings earlier in the year.
“About 75 percent of McKinney residents are white, and about 10 percent are black, according to 2010 census data.”
Local radio show host Benét Embry, who is black and lives in McKinney, tells the Morning News that the community “is not a racist neighborhood” and that it’s “unfortunate that an event like this brings the spotlight.”
Embry also says that police who responded to calls of a disturbance at the pool did their best to restore order — and that a small number of kids were “acting the fool.”
Another view comes from Michael Corey Quattrin, who wrote a post on Facebook that has been shared tens of thousands of times since it was posted Sunday night. Quattrin, who says he lives in the neighborhood, believes the incident is being misrepresented.
Quattrin says that both black and white teenagers from outside the neighborhood were drawn to the party by tweets, and that led to a scene that prompted residents to call police.
“The teens began fighting with each other and pushing their way into our private pool,” he says. “Some were jumping our fence. The security guard was accosted when he tried to stop the beginnings of this mob scene.”
The McKinney Police Department has been slow to provide details about Casebolt, and a LinkedIn profile in his name has been deleted. According to the Morning News, before it was removed, Casebolt’s profile described him as a Navy veteran and former highway patrolman who joined the McKinney police force in the summer of 2005.