A Baltimore police sergeant is facing criminal charges after instructing a fellow officer to tackle and arrest a civilian he claimed was “interfering” with a warrant check.
Recently released body camera footage from the incident paints a vastly different picture, however.
In the video released by the Baltimore Police Department on Friday, police Sgt. Ethan Newberg is seen chasing after and grabbing bystander Lee Dotson after his criticism of police arrest tactics during an officer’s detainment of another man on May 30. Newberg, a 24-year veteran of the department, is now criminally charged with assault, false imprisonment, and misconduct in office stemming from the incident, according to The Baltimore Sun.
He remains suspended without pay.
The newspaper reported that a second officer and subordinate to Newberg, whom the department hasn’t named, has been suspended with pay pending their investigation into his role in the incident.
In the body camera footage, Newberg, 49, orders Dotson to “mind his business” after the man criticizes the officers’ decision to make a suspect sit down on wet pavement during a warrant check. Dotson is seen walking away from police as he continues to rant. Seconds later, Newberg charges toward him.
“I’m not running away, ” Dotson says as the sergeant grabs him by the arm, attempting to take him down. “Please get off me, sir. Get the f–k off me!”
A second officer then tackles the man to the ground by his neck, prompting Dotson to scream and accuse the police of violating his free speech rights.
“Man I’m suing y’all,” Dotson, 30, tells the officers as they place him in handcuffs.
Later in the clip when more officers arrive, the victim is heard demanding the reason for his arrest, to which Newberg responds: “Because you don’t know how to act.” He also tells Dotson to “just go to jail and take your charges like a man,” according to the video.
Dotson was booked into jail, however, prosecutors quickly dismissed his charges after reviewing his case, the Baltimore Sun reported. He was arrested less than 24 hours later, however, on drug possession charges after police stopped his car because his license plate was “positioned in an unusual manner.”
In initial reports of the incident, Newberg claimed Dotson was “combative and aggressive,” forcing officers to arrest him. Authorities also described Dotson as “inciting a hostile crowd while squaring off with them” during the incident.
Footage of the arrest ran counter to the sergeant’s characterization of the incident, however, landing Newberg on the other side of the law. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the incident was just one of many that illustrate a “horrible culture” of excessive force within the city’s police department.
“That officer is tarnishing the badge that we all wear,” Harrison told the Baltimore Sun of Newberg.
In a separate moment caught on video, the sergeant is heard snapping at a subordinate officer from a different unit who urged him to calm down.
“Leave my scene,” Newberg barks. “Don’t you ever tell me how to do my job.”
In a letter, attorney Joseph Murtha, who’s representing Newberg, criticized the commissioner’s decision to release the bodycam tapes, arguing “There is no constructive purpose for the dissemination of the … footage” before Newberg’s trial.
Citing city records, the Baltimore Sun reported that Newberg earned a hefty $243,000 salary last year, making him the second-highest-paid city employee, ahead of the mayor.