Webster says kick to unarmed black man's head was a mistake
Dover Police Cpl. Thomas Webster says he “wasn’t intending” to kick an unarmed black man in the head during a 2013 incident.
Webster took the stand for nearly an hour and a half Thursday, saying he instead meant to kick Lateef Dickerson’s torso. The blow broke Dickerson’s jaw and left him unconscious.
Dickerson matched the description of a man with a gun at the time of a fight at a nearby gas station. “I was very scared,” Webster said.
He and another officer had their guns drawn during most of the encounter, with Webster saying on the stand, “I was relieved I didn’t have to take Lateef Dickerson’s life.”
“At no point did he give me the indication that he’s compliant,” Webster said, noting that Dickerson didn’t immediately get to the ground in the roughly 14-second incident and was adjusting his pants.
Delaware State Police Trooper Ricardo Torres, who went to school with and helped train Webster before he was hired by Dover Police, says the head kick was justified. Torres added that he would use the dash cam video showing the encounter as an example of proper use of force in classes he teaches.
"What gets officers killed out on the street is if they hesitate," he said.
Former FBI agent and consultant Philip Hayden testified earlier in the day and says he thought it was a “mistake” that Webster's intentions weren’t put into a report, but that, “He ended the situation as peacefully as he could.”
Prosecutors jumped on that discrepancy, repeatedly questioning why those perceptions – including that Dickerson may have been glaring at officers – were left out.
“You don’t add the ‘woulda, coulda, shouldas,’” Webster said. “I put in what I thought was pertinent.”
Hayden also says that kicking the head would be “very foolish” because it’s a smaller target with a greater chance to miss – given the high intensity of the situation.
Dickerson eventually began lowering himself into a prone position, taking about five seconds. But Hayden says he considers that taking too long for a suspect to comply with orders.
“Five seconds is an eternity,” he said. “To me, that threat level never goes down until I have that person under control.”
Webster later drove Dickerson to the Kent General Hospital.
The officer says he had a roughly four-hour, civil conversation with him, when Dickerson told him his intention was to run or fight.
Dickerson himself hasn’t appeared in court since the trial began Tuesday.
Both sides have rested and closing arguments begin at 9 a.m. Friday.