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Nearby officer "surprised" by head kick of unarmed black man

The officer who was next to Dover Police Cpl. Thomas Webster when he kicked an unarmed black suspect in the head two years ago said he was “surprised” by that action.

Lt. Christopher Hermance was the other cop holding Lateef Dickerson at gunpoint in August 2013 after responding to a report of a nearby fight. Hermance testified in court Wednesday.

He gave a detective his view of Webster's use of force in a later interview, but said he was still concerned Dickerson had a gun on him.

“I believed he was going to produce [a weapon],” Hermance said, noting Dickerson twice pulled up his pants and had his hands near his waistband at times.

A dash cam video shows neither Hermance, nor Webster immediately checked for a weapon after the kick that broke Dickerson’s jaw and left him unconscious.

Ron Martinelli, a former police officer with more than 30 years of experience, told the court that the two cops had probable cause to detain Dickerson, but that the kick “was not objectively necessary.”

“An officer has to used controlled violence,” to properly restrain some suspects in certain situations, according to Martinelli.

In his report, he also described the kick as “vicious”, but Judge Ferris Wharton redacted that phrase after a complaint from the defense, saying it carried darker connotations.

Defense attorney James Liguori successfully removed Martinelli’s estimation of how forceful Webster’s kick was from the report, calling it “junk science.”

After reviewing the video, he guessed the kick carried more than 200 pounds of force per square inch. “That’s insufficiently precise for me to admit it,” as scientific evidence, Wharton said.

None of those arguments were presented before the jury.

State prosecutors continued to hammer that neither Webster, nor Hermance searched Dickerson after putting him in handcuffs, despite suspecting him of hiding a weapon.

“The first thing I want them to do is search for a weapon,” Martinelli said, who by his estimation, has trained about 60,000 law enforcement agents during his career.

Liguori has largely avoided addressing that aspect of the case, but maintains Dickerson was spouting vulgar language at officers, telling them they were lucky they caught him.

Prosecutors rested their case mid-afternoon Wednesday. Liguori then tried to dismiss the case, saying the state presented insufficient evidence for a jury to convict Webster.

Wharton quickly denied that motion.

The defense expects to use the remaining three days of the trial to call their witnesses to testify.

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