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The Texas police officer captured on video using force on teenagers at a wild pool party apologized Wednesday, saying through his lawyer that his nerves were frayed after responding to two suicide calls.
The apology came a day after the officer, Eric Casebolt, resigned from the McKinney Police Department. He remains in seclusion away from home after receiving death threats, his lawyer and union representative said at a news conference.
"He recognizes that his emotions got the best of him and that the prior suicide calls put him in an emotional place that he would have preferred not to have been in when he responded to this call," his lawyer, Jane Bushkin, said.
The seven-minute video shows Casebolt, who is white, wrestling a black 15-year-old girl to the ground and pulling his gun on other young people, most of them also black, when they fail to follow his commands as he responds to reports of fighting at a June 5 party held at a community pool. Casebolt, a corporal who served on the police force for 10 years, also curses at the teenagers.
The video has triggered a furious backlash, and allegations of racism.
The police chief, Greg Conley, called Casebolt's actions “indefensible.” Civil rights groups have called for authorities to file criminal charges against the officer.
Casebolt has been the target of death threats called and emailed into the police department on a daily basis, said Daniel Malenfant, president of the McKinney Fraternal Order of Police.
The union called the news conference to offer Casebolt's perspective.
"The video everyone has seen only depicts a small part of Eric’s actions that day," Bushkin said.
She said Casebolt was working a evening shift that began with a call to an apartment complex where a man had shot himself in the head in front of his family. Casebolt helped officers take witness statements, photographed the body and consoled the man's wife, Bushkin said.
From there, Casebolt responded to a report of a teenaged girl threatening to jump off her parents' roof, Bushkin said. He calmed the girl down and made sure she was taken to the hospital, she said.
The pool party call was next. At first, the call was limited to reports of trespassing, and Casebolt was inclined to let other officers handle it. But he changed his mind when he then heard reports that people had been assaulted, Buskin said.
"His purpose was to interview as many people as possible to determine who was at fault," Bushkin said. "He believed those who fled were possible suspects. He was not targeting minorities."
Nevertheless, Bushkin said, Casebolt acknowledged that he lost his cool.
"Eric regrets that his conduct portrayed him and his department in a negative light. He never intended to mistreat anyone but was only reacting to a situation and the challenges it presented."
Melanfant and Bushkin said Casebolt resigned in order to help the community heal faster.
Later on Wednesday, the 15-year-old girl's lawyer held a news conference in which she said her client's treatment by Casebolt was "inappropriate, excessive and without cause," and could be the basis of a civil rights lawsuit.
The girl, Dajerria Becton, was not trespassing at the party and did nothing wrong, her lawyer, Hannah Stroud, said. But as she tried to get to her phone to call her aunt, Casebolt thrust her to the ground and handcuffed her, Stroud said.
Becton did not suffer any physical injuries but is having a hard time sleeping and eating, Stroud said.
"I'm sure she probably just wished she wasn't at the pool party, but she doesn't think there was much she could have done to avoid the situation."
Stroud said she appreciated Casebolt's apology, but didn't think the stress of prior calls was an excuse.
"I’m a great believer in personal responsibility and personal culpability," Stroud said. "Each of us has stress in our lives ... so using that as an excuse or what sounded like a defense, it didn't bother me, but I wondered if it belittled the apology."