The lawyer for a McKinney, Texas, police officer who has become the country’s latest exemplification of bad cop behavior on Wednesday blamed her client’s aggressive actions on emotional stress.
Cpl. Eric Casebolt was captured on video Friday evening wrestling a teenage girl to the ground and pointing his gun at two other teens while answering a disturbance call at an unruly party at a neighborhood pool in suburban Dallas.
“He never intended to mistreat anyone,” his attorney, Jane Bishkin, said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. “He apologizes to all who were offended.”
Bishkin said Casebolt had worked one suicide and one attempted suicide in the hour prior to being dispatched to the pool party that reportedly involved teens fighting.
“The nature of these two suicide calls took an emotional toll on Eric Casebolt,” Bishkin said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
Cellphone video of Casebolt responding to the pool incident was published Saturday and immediately went viral. By Sunday, Casebolt, a 10-year veteran, was suspended and put under investigation. On the video, teens are seen scrambling as police arrive on the scene in the upper-middle-class neighborhood.
Casebolt, who resigned Tuesday, did not attend the news conference.
Daniel Malenfant, president of the McKinney Fraternal Order of Police, said Casebolt has been receiving daily telephone and email death threats.
“He's worried for his family,” Bishkin said. “He's worried that he may be followed.”
On the video, Casebolt, who is white, curses at mainly black youths and shouts for them to sit on the ground. As an argument with a bikini-clad girl escalates, the officer can be heard yelling, “On your face,” as he pushes the girl to the ground. When two teenage boys rush up to where Casebolt has the girl pinned to the ground, the officer draws his gun and briefly chases them.
“He was only reacting to the situation and the challenges that it presented,” Bishkin said.
Casebolt, the city’s patrolman of the year in 2008, was reluctant to even go to the pool disturbance, but “felt it was his duty to respond” once the call escalated to reports of violence.
“He believed that those who fled were possible suspects,” Bishkin said. “He was not targeting minorities. In fact, he also detained a white female.”
But in hindsight, Bishkin said, Casebolt acknowledges that he let his emotions get the better of him.
Bishkin said Casebolt was working the evening shift and started work at 6 p.m., about 1 hour and 15 minutes before officers were called to the Craig Ranch subdivision neighborhood pool.
His first call of the night was to a suicide where a father had shot and killed himself poolside at an apartment complex in front of his family and others, Bishkin said.
“Eric assisted them in securing the scene, photographing the body and collecting statements,” said Bishkin, noting that the deceased was black.
“Eric also spent a considerable amount of time consoling the man’s grieving widow.”
On his next call, Bishkin said Casebolt helped successfully talk a suicidal teenage girl down from her parents’ roof.
“Eric’s compassion during these two incidents are a testament to his character,” Bishkin said. “While police work is often dangerous, it is fraught with emotions and family tragedy.”
Asked by a reporter if any other officers had been on the suicide calls and at the pool melee like Casebolt, Bishkin declined to answer.
“Because there's still an active investigation by the McKinney Police Department, we think it's inappropriate to comment as much as we'd like to,” she said.
Social media has been a hot spot of debate regarding the case, with a number of people saying Casebolt’s resignation isn’t enough.
City of McKinney spokeswoman Anna Clark said late Wednesday that the case remains under investigation.
“We won’t have details on charges until it’s complete,” Clark wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “We are investigating all allegations of criminal activity involving this incident.”
Bishkin said Casebolt has received little information about the investigation.
“It is his hope that by his resignation the community may start to heal,” Bishkin said.
(This story has been updated since it originally published.)
Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).