A Delaware police officer, who was caught on video kicking a black suspect in the face and breaking his jaw, was acquitted of assault Tuesday after a three-day deliberation by a Delaware jury.
According to ABC 6, jurors deliberated 16 hours a day for three days before acquitting Dover Police Cpl. Thomas Webster IV, 42, of felony assault. The jury also decided not to convict Webster on a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault.
"This obviously was a thoughtful verdict. I hope we can all move on from this," defense attorney James Liguori told the news station after the verdict.
In August 2013, Webster attempted to break up a fight when those gathered took off running. Webster and another officer began ordering Lateef Dickerson to the ground. Dash-cam video of the incident shows Dickerson putting his hands up when Webster appears to push him in the back. Dickerson goes down to his knees. Webster kicks him in the face, and Dickerson falls out flat.
Webster testified that he was aiming for Dickerson's body when he went to kick him but that he missed and ended up kicking him in the face. Webster also claimed that he feared for his safety because officers reportedly had been told that Dickerson was armed with a gun, ABC 6 reports.
Prosecutors argued that Webster didn't need to kick Dickerson, since he was complying with the officer's request and was prone and defenseless when he was kicked.
"I hope in some small way, at least, this is a general deterrent," Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney Jr. said after the verdict. "We hope that police officers see that if there's a situation where the state feels that they've broken the law, they're going to be held to account."
ABC 6 reports that shortly after the verdict was read, Webster left the courthouse through a side entrance and did not speak with reporters.
Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat noted in a statement viewed by the news station that Webster's status as an officer was still being evaluated by the department. Bernat added that a decision would be forthcoming after the department investigated the case.
La Mar Gunn, president of the central Delaware branch of the NAACP, called the verdict stunning and a setback for the black community, but urged residents to continue to have hope.
"I would just challenge the people to continue to have hope," Gunn told ABC 6. "There are people who need justice to work, and this sends the wrong message."
Read more at ABC 6.