Until a well-researched, widely accepted account of the events involving former policeman Eric Casebolt and 14-year old Dajerria Becton has been published, I think it’s risky to make more than general comments about it. Given how much national and international attention it has drawn, I expect this will be done soon, although it may be delayed due to pending civil or criminal legal proceedings.
Without this information, I think the best source of information is the original, unedited video, which is available at this youtube page
. Note that the full video is about 7 min 20 seconds long, the remainder being repeats of earlier parts. I encourage everyone to watch the first 7:20 of this video.
A good opinion of whether Casebolt misbehaved is, I think, his voluntary quitting his policeman job, and his statement, delivered by an attorney, that he believes he misbehaved. The reasons given for his misbehavior seem to me sensible and truthful: that he was emotionally stressed after having earlier in the day consoled the family of a suicide victim, then successfully intervened in a teenager’s apparent suicide attempt, so “allowed his emotions to get the better of him” in his altercation with Becton. Casebolt appears to have considered not participating in the event because of his emotional state. In hindsight, it’s clear thing would have been better if he hadn’t. From the video, it appears to me Casebolt is not “out of control” or behaving brutally, but makes poor decisions in his attempt to calm people and control the situation.
It appears that, fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt.
I think the most important psychological sociological question raised by this story is why it has drawn so much attention, and has such severe consequences for Casebolt, which is tied strongly to why the bystander-made video of it went viral, drawing so much individual and news agency attention so quickly. I think this was not due to the parts of the video showing Casebolt downing and restraining Becton, but the parts where it shows him drawing and pointing his handgun at two boys who approach him as he is restraining Becton (The two boys immediately run away, and two policemen appear in shot moments later, briefly interact with Casebolt, then give chase. Minutes later, one of the boys is brought back handcuffed. I understand he was arrested and charged with interfering with a police officer, but that the charge was soon dropped).
The image of a gun being pointed at these boys, and the implication that they might be killed unjustly, is, I think, the main driver of attention to this story.
The most important civil sociological question raised is, I think, whether it is illegal to show disrespect to police. From other bystander interviews, it appears the reason Casebolt grabbed Becton from among a group of similar-looking girls who he had ordered to leave, and who appear to have been leaving, was because “he thought we were saying rude stuff to him”.
I don’t believe it is illegal to say “rude stuff” to policepeople, provided that stuff is not threatening. I believe that, in part because he was emotionally stressed by his activities earlier that day, Casebolt overreacted and grabbed Becton when he should not have.