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State Trooper is indicted on charges related to a “violent rampage” following a teen's prank

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

A suspended Delaware State Trooper is indicted on multiple charges for what Delaware’s Attorney General Kathy Jennings calls a “violent rampage.”

Dempsey Walters was indicted by a grand jury Monday for two incidents involving minors that took place in mid-August.

Delaware’s Department of Justice was notified of the incident the next day.

“When Dempsey Walters’ actions were uncovered through a DSP internal body-worn camera review, we immediately suspended him and initiated a criminal investigation. Since then, we have been working tirelessly with the Delaware Attorney General’s office to pursue justice. This indictment is a stark reminder that all citizens of this great state will be held accountable for their actions,” said Superintendent of the Delaware State Police Colonel Melissa A. Zebley in a statement Tuesday.

Walters’ suspension is without pay or benefits, and with the intention to terminate, according to Zebley.

The first incident began on August 17th while Walters was off-duty. Following a verbal altercation with a 17 year-old minor, referred to as Victim One in the official indictment, Walters called Elsmere Police Department. They transported the minor to his home on Taft Avenue. He was not charged with any crime.

Walters looked up Victim One on DELJIS, a controlled-access law enforcement database, the next day.

Four days later, three teens, including a 15 year-old referred to in the indictment as Victim Two, played a prank on Demspey’s house by kicking the door and running away. No damage was reportedly done to Walters’ property.

Walters was informed of this incident by his girlfriend while on duty, who gave him a description of the minor based on their Ring camera footage. He proceeded to drive to his neighborhood while calling DSP troopers and other police departments to respond to the prank.

The search for the minors involved in the “ding dong ditch” brought Walters and two Newport police officers to Taft Avenue, the same area that Victim One lived.

Walters looked up Victim One on DELJIS and proceeded to go to his home.

Victim One and a friend answered the door, unarmed and compliant. Walters immediately turned violent, pulling Victim One out of the doorway and forcing him to the ground, injuring him before handcuffing and detaining him.

The video footage from the Newport police officer's body camera shows him holding a gun when waiting for the teen to answer the door. Walters' body camera footage shows his use of force against the teen.

While en route to his home Walters was informed that the three minors involved in the prank had been found. He then drove to the location where Victim Two and his friends had been detained by other officers.

When Walters arrived Victim Two was face down on the ground with a State Trooper attempting to handcuff him. Walters exited his vehicle and proceeded to put his knee on the 15 year-old’s neck and head, causing injury.

Footage from a police vehicle and Walters' body camera captures this.

Once Victim Two was transported to a police vehicle, Walters turned off his body camera and punched the minor in the face while he was handcuffed and detained. This action fractured the victim’s right eye socket.

Walters then turned his camera back on. However, due to a feature all DSP cameras have where they continue recording for 30 seconds after being shut off, the entirety of the incident was recorded.

The official charges against Walters include a felony Second Degree assault for his actions against the 15 year-old, Victim Two, and two misdemeanor counts each of Third Degree assault and Official Misconduct for his actions against both victims.

Walters is also charged with Deprivation of Civil Rights, which criminalizes knowingly violating someone’s civil rights under the color of law.

Jennings says this is the Delaware DOJ’s first use of this felony charge under a new statute passed last year.

“In this case it is clear that the reason that charge has been brought is because a defenseless juvenile was handcuffed in the back of a police vehicle, and he was assaulted,” said Jennings.

Deputy Attorneys General Dan McBride and Zoe Plerhoples secured Walters’ indictment with support from DOJ Investigator Millard Greer and paralegal Dawn Pillarelli.

The investigation was also assisted by detectives from the Delaware State Police.

There is no indication that any of the officers who responded to Walters’ call to action that evening and aided in the arrest of the minors will face any consequences.

“The evidence does not show that anyone knew in advance that this officer was going to number one, turn off his camera, walk up to the back of this police vehicle, take his fist, reach it through the window, and punch this child in the eye,” said Jennings.

In the indictment, it is stated that upon arriving on Taft Avenue and encountering the two Newport police officers, he told them that someone had attempted to kick in his door, despite Ring footage indicating that the alleged perpetrator had fled the scene immediately after kicking it once.

It is unclear what Walters told other law enforcement officers who responded to his call.

The initial "ding dong ditch" prank on August 21st occurred at 8:30pm. By 8:45pm Walters was already searching Victim One on DELJIS to confirm his address before assaulting at his residence on Taft Avenue.

Read the official indictment below:

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021