An officer with the Baltimore Police Department has resigned after he was captured on video repeatedly punching a civilian, who was later hospitalized for a broken or fractured jaw and injuries to his eye socket, nose, ribs and left leg. While the BPD has declined to release the name of the now-former officer, he was identified on social media over the weekend following the incident as Arthur Williams. Attorney Warren Brown, who is representing the victim, Dashawn McGrier, later confirmed Williams’ identity to the Baltimore Sun. Williams’ partner that day, who is seen in the video — which quickly went viral and spurred national attention — has also not been identified by the department, but has been placed on administrative duties pending the conclusion of the investigation. Before tendering his resignation, Williams was placed on paid suspension, which is standard practice for the department, thanks to Maryland’s stringent Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (LEBOR).
The video, which was shot by another civilian, was initially uploaded to Instagram on Saturday morning. It shows McGrier with his back against a building and Williams standing just a few inches in front of him with a few onlookers in the foreground, including the other officer. A few seconds into the footage, McGrier yells “For what?.” Williams shoves McGrier and then begins hitting him with a closed fist, landing at least 12 punches to his head before pinning McGrier, whose face is bloodied, to the ground. Williams’ partner doesn’t make any effort to stop the assault until after the eighth punch, but is ineffective, though he does block at least one bystander from getting any closer to the continuing assault. Another video taken shortly after the incident indicates that McGrier was taken away from the scene in handcuffs, but no charges were filed and he was hospitalized shortly thereafter.
At a press conference on Monday, the department’s Interim-Commissioner Garry Tuggle — Baltimore’s third Top Cop in less than a year — said there was “no room for the activity” he saw on the video, which he called “disappointing” and “disturbing,” particularly “the fact that the attempt to take this individual to the ground was after the head strikes.” Asked about what Williams’ partner should have done to stop the beating, Tuggle said that “given the opportunity to stop it and protect himself at the same time, he had an obligation to do both,” suggesting that the bystanders posed some sort of threat. He specifically referred to a bystander “holding a stick”; however, that man can be seen at the start of the footage holding a broom and sweeping the sidewalk. During the filmed assault, neither he nor any of the other civilians appear to threaten the officers.
According to the police department, the altercation began after Williams asked for McGrier’s ID and he refused. However, this was not the first time Williams and McGrier have crossed paths. Williams — a former Marine who joined the department in May 2017 after graduating from the police academy — arrested McGrier once before, back on June 26th, which another civilian also captured on video and posted online on Saturday. That video shows Williams pinning McGrier to the ground as onlookers ask, “What did he do?” According to online court records, McGrier was charged with second-degree assault alongside disorderly conduct, obstructing/hindering and resisting arrest; the latter three charges, according to Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, should be “a red flag” about the arrest because officers “can apply these charges [with] virtually unfettered discretion.”
Earlier today, Paul McGrew, a reporter for Baltimore’s local Fox affiliate, obtained the charging documents from that June incident, and in his report, Williams alleges that McGrier assaulted him and then threatened to “kill this officer after he was released from prison” as he was being handcuffed. (McGrier isn’t heard threatening Williams in the video that’s been posted online.) During Monday’s press conference, Tuggle said that no complaint had been filed with the Internal Affairs Department regarding the June incident.
Tuggle again refused to identify either officer, but for different reasons — the officer who has resigned (Williams) is now a “civilian” who has not yet been charged with a crime; the partner, who has been placed on administrative duty, isn’t being named because the investigation is still ongoing. According to the Baltimore Sun, second-degree assault charges are being “considered” and ultimately the State’s Attorneys Office, led by Marilyn Mosby, will make that decision. Mosby’s office has yet to issue public comment on the incident and did not respond to Rolling Stone’s questions about either the incident on Saturday or the pending case against McGrier from June, which has a scheduled court date later this month.
The Baltimore Police Department has been officially under a Federal consent decree since April 2017, following a Department of Justice investigation that was prompted by the death of Freddie Gray, whose spine was broken in police custody in April 2015. The investigation’s findings — released in April 2016 — found that the police department “engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution as well as federal anti-discrimination laws.” The department is now being held to a court-enforceable agreement that requires them to resolve the DOJ’s findings by implementing a comprehensive list of reforms. Tuggle said that there was “no room to go outside the consent decree,” and suggested that Saturday’s incident “shows a deficiency in our training that we can learn from.”
It’s impossible to talk about this one incident without acknowledging the utter litany of scandals that have defined the Baltimore Police Department just over the last several years. In early 2017, a group of eight officers from a specialized unit known as the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) were federally indicted for racketeering and conspiracy after the officers were found to have robbed citizens, stole and sold drugs and guns and committed overtime fraud for years. All of the officers have been sentenced to significant prison time — six of the officers took plea deals, while two others were found guilty at a federal trial in February. The Federal government continues to investigate the department for “overall corruption.”
There have also been numerous incidents involving officers being caught fabricating or tampering with evidence in bodycam footage, and engaging in criminal behavior on and off-duty. In November, a homicide officer named Sean Suiter was shot in the head in the middle of the afternoon one day before he was scheduled to testify before a Federal grand jury about a case that led to additional charges against one of the GTTF officers. Ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, the case remains unsolved. Tuggle was named Interim-Commissioner in May, after his predecessor Darryl DeSousa — who had the job for less than three months — was charged with failing to pay his taxes for three years.
The department declined to respond to Rolling Stone’s questions about the incidents involving Williams and McGrier, referring to Tuggle’s press conference and various social media statements; they did not immediately respond to RS’s request for comment on prior scandals involving the department.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Tuggle remarked that the “sad thing” about Williams’ violent assault on McGrier is that it “overshadows” the “hundreds” of other “good things” being done by the department.
A few hours after Tuggle’s press conference, McGrier’s attorney, Warren Brown, gave one of his own. He stated that McGrier had been targeted by Williams before and the two were on a first-name basis. He called the former officer’s claims of assault and death threats from the June incident “not true,” and said that on Saturday, Williams “lost total control.”
“Arthur Williams’ brutal attack on Deshawn McGrier was not only an attack on a U.S. citizen, but a tremendous setback in our effort to build a desired relationship between the community and law enforcement,” Brown stated. “It’s extremely hard to imagine such brutality being levied on those from more prominent neighborhoods in our great city. Such acts tend to marginalize the very people who are in most need of professional policing. The hope is that this attack on my client will be the last such violation of a citizen’s constitutional and human rights by a member of the Baltimore City Police Department.”