Live

Watch CBSN Live

Delaware jury acquits police officer of assaulting black man

DOVER, Del. -- A Delaware jury has acquitted a white police officer of assault after he kicked a black suspect in the head, breaking his jaw.

Jurors deliberated for about 16 hours over three days before acquitting Dover police officer Thomas Webster IV of felony assault and misdemeanor assault on Tuesday afternoon.

Webster testified that he didn't intend to kick Lateef Dickerson in the head in August 2013 and instead was aiming for his upper body. Webster also said he feared for the safety of himself and others because officers were told Dickerson was armed with a gun, and Dickerson was slow to comply with repeated commands to get on the ground.

Prosecutors argued that Webster acted recklessly and used excessive force.

"Whether it was a mistake, whether it was intentional, it was reckless behavior," prosecutor Danielle Brennan told jurors, reports CBS affiliate WBOC.

9416267g.jpg
Lateef Dickerson is seen on dashcam footage in Dover, putting his hands up as an officer stands behind him with his gun out. (Photo: Dover Police Department). CBS affiliate WBOC

Brennan also said the reports filed by Webster after the encounter were "inconsistent and incorrect" and didn't include his contention at trial that he didn't intend to kick Dickerson in the head.

"He was getting down to the felony-prone position," said Brennan, referring to the term used by police when a potentially dangerous suspect is flat on the ground with his arms extended, WBOC reports.

WBOC reports that the defense had argued that Dickerson was in a "sprinter's position" from which he could have lunged at the officers, pulled a weapon or fled with a gun.

"Do any of you believe that Lateef Dickerson would have complied with Tom Webster's requests to get on the ground if Hermance didn't show up?" Defense attorney James Liguori asked jurors.

Dickerson, who has a criminal history and is awaiting trial on unrelated charges involving stolen guns, was charged with resisting arrest after fleeing from the officer at the fight scene. That charge was later dropped.