A state trooper’s house doorbell prank in Delaware last month devolved into a physical brawl that left one youngster with a broken orbital bone and another juvenile hurt, according to body cam footage provided by authorities in the state.
Following an incident on August 21, Delaware State Trooper Dempsey R. Walters, 29, was charged with felony assault, two counts of misdemeanour assault, and two counts of official misconduct. The alleged victim was a teenager who knocked on Walters’ door as part of a joke known as “ding-dong ditch,” in which people ring doorbells or hit doors and flee.
Both alleged assaults are seen in the body camera film that was made public.
“As a mother and grandmother, the footage in this case is hard to watch,” Democratic Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a prepared statement. “As a prosecutor, the constitutional violations are stunning.”
The latest body cam video depicts a sequence of activities on August 21 that allegedly resulted from a fight with another adolescent the week before.
Authorities claim that on August 17, when Walters was off duty, he got into a fight with a 17-year-old teenager. The two got into a fight while he was making his way to his Elsmere house, and Walters contacted the Elsmere police before he left the area.
Officers who responded picked up the youngster and delivered him to his mother at his Taft Avenue residence.
The following day, Walters was accused of searching for the minor in the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System (DELJIS), a state law enforcement database.
A few days later, on August 21, four teenagers were passing by Walters’ house when they made the decision to play a joke on it.
One of the guys, a 15-year-old, was seen on a home security video approaching Walters’ residence, concealing his face, and kicking the door before running away.
Police say that after that, Walters’ girlfriend called him and gave him a description of the youngster.
According to reports, Walters, who was on duty at the time, arrived on the scene, drove to his neighbourhood, and made calls to other troopers and police departments to request assistance in locating the offenders.
When Walters arrived in his neighbourhood, a witness informed him that numerous teenagers had ran along Taft Avenue, which may have made Walters recall the 17-year-old with whom he had previously argued.
Walters once more used DELJIS to locate the 17-year-old’s Taft Avenue residence.
The teen and a friend answered the front door when he and two Newport police officers arrived at the boy’s home.
The youngster seems to be grabbed by Walters and pushed to the ground in the body cam footage that has been made public. The confrontation resulted in the boy being hurt, according to the police, who also noted that the juvenile was handcuffed and detained but never formally arrested.
Both Walters’ personal body camera and the police body cameras in Newport recorded the incident.
Walters was then informed that the group responsible for the doorbell incident had been located and detained at a different place, continuing his claimed criminal behaviour.
The 15-year-old accused of kicking the officer’s door was reportedly lying face-down on the ground with a trooper handcuffing him when the man allegedly drove there.
Investigators claim that after getting out of his car, Walters nearly immediately put his knee on the back of the boy’s head and neck.
Both Walters’ body camera and the police car’s camera filmed the manoeuvre.
After that, the 15-year-old was placed inside a police car, where Walters allegedly assaulted him once more.
Walters turned off his body-worn camera and approached the boy after making sure with another trooper that the boy inside the car was the same child who had kicked his door.
Walters allegedly hit the child in the face, breaking his right eye socket, as he was restrained in the backseat.
The trooper then got out of the car and reactivated his body camera.
According to Col. Melissa Zebley of the Delaware State Police, maintaining public safety and restoring trust in her organisation are major concerns.
Walters, a trooper for more than six years, was placed on paid leave. He surrendered to police on Tuesday in the late afternoon and was later freed after paying $29,000 bail. Later, he entered a not guilty plea to the accusations.
Requests for comment were not answered by the Delaware State Police or a Walters representative.
This report was made possible by the Associated Press.