The black teen girl pinned to the ground by a McKinney, Texas cop at a 2015 pool party is suing the former officer, the police department, and the city for $5 million. Dajerria Becton, who was 15 at the time of the incident, and her legal guardian filed the complaint in federal court last month.
According to the suit, officer Eric Casebolt, who resigned four days after the incident after being put on administrative leave, violated Becton’s constitutional rights by using excessive force on her and holding her without probable cause that she had committed a crime. The suit also alleges that the McKinney Police Department and the city itself failed to properly train police officers, making them partly at fault for the mental and physical harm Becton suffered.
The June 2015 incident was caught on tape; the video, a disturbing example of police violence against unarmed black teenagers, quickly attracted attention in the news and on social media. It has been viewed more than 12.7 million times as of this writing.
On that day in early June, police were called to a McKinney community pool after white neighbors objected to the presence of black teens at a party there. In the video, Casebolt can be seen grabbing Becton by the arm and throwing her to the ground multiple times. (In one instance, Becton is sitting on the ground per Casebolt’s instructions when he lifts her up and slams her into the grass again.) Responding to no apparent physical threat, Casebolt pushes Becton’s head into the ground, pulls her by her hair, and kneels with one knee on her back and the other on her neck. She cries out for her mother. When two male bystanders approach, Casebolt points his gun at them to shoo them off. “Get out of here or you’re going to jail,” he says.
Becton was handcuffed on the ground for several minutes, despite the fact that, according to the suit, she was following Casebolt’s orders. “The entire time … she could do nothing by cry out in pain and repeatedly beg for her ‘Momma’ as she endured the pain inflicted upon her by Defendant Casebolt’s physical assault,” Becton’s complaint reads. She claims she was invited to the pool party by a neighborhood resident and began to leave the pool area when police officers came to break it up. (A black teen who lived very close to the public pool was, indeed, the one who threw the pool party.)
After the video of the incident was posted to YouTube, McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley called Casebolt’s actions “indefensible” and “out of control.” Becton’s suit alleges that Casebolt’s behavior was typical of the policies and trainings provided by the police department. “McKinney prides itself in cultivating the highest standards of training and professionalism for our officers, and it strongly believes that its standards and training will withstand legal challenge,” the police department said in a statement issued in response to the lawsuit.
Dallas News reports that Becton is seeking $5 million for “mental anguish” and “loss of quality of life,” plus legal fees, with interest. She is asking for punitive damages in addition to damages for the psychological and emotional disturbances she says she still suffers from Casebolt’s use of physical force.