DALLAS -- A Dallas County jury found a former Dallas police officer guilty of kicking and pepper spraying a handcuffed man as he lay on the ground in 2011.
Quaitemes Wiliams was found guilty of official oppression, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of up to a year in jail. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 18.
“I did not expect this result,” Williams said moments after the verdict. He declined further comment.
Russell Wilson, the lead prosecutor, said the verdict sends an important message that police brutality will not be tolerated.
“It was obvious from viewing the videotape [...] that it was clear he had gone way over the line,” Wilson said.
The jury’s verdict came after Williams took the stand as the final witness during the two-day trial. He was adamant that he did nothing wrong.
“Every amount of force that we used was necessary force, and it was only the necessary force,” Williams said.
He testified that since his firing from the force, he’s been supporting himself by teaching chess at private schools and offering private lessons. He testified he recently completed a nursing degree and would soon be a registered nurse.
Williams gave his version of the events that transpired during the Jan. 28, 2011 encounter with Rodarick Lyles, who testified on the first day of the trial. The incident was captured on dash-cam video.
The incident began when Officer Hiram Soler pulled Lyles over on a traffic stop. Lyles was stopped because the car’s license plate didn’t match the vehicle.
“Every officer is going to think that’s a stolen car and that makes that hair on the back of your neck stand up,” Williams said on the stand. “That’s often a very dangerous situation.”
Lyles was found to have outstanding warrants and a suspended license. Soler called for backup. About 20 minutes went by before Williams and his partner arrived on scene to help make the arrest.
“Soler explained to us that he had a bad feeling,” Williams said. “He had a feeling that this guy was going to fight.”
Williams testified that he walked up to Lyles with his hands in his pockets because he wanted to appear non-confrontational. But he said Lyles didn’t want to get out of the car.
“He was like, ‘I’m not going to jail,'” Williams testified. “He was like, ‘You can’t do this,' and Officer Soler had one of his arms and was trying to put the handcuffs on him, but he wasn’t cooperating.”
Lyles earlier testified that he had asked the officer to use two handcuffs on him because he was overweight and his arms wouldn’t go behind his back.
Williams said Lyles used one arm and moved both he and Soler. He described Lyles as “incredibly strong” and rolling them around like an “Army tank.” A struggle ensued, with Lyles falling on top of Williams.
“I’m terrified. I’m in extreme pain,” Williams said. “Having a 300-pound man on top of you is not a pleasant experience, I can tell you that.”
He testified that he punched Lyles as he continued to resist. The punches didn’t work, so he grabbed a flashlight and hit Lyles with it. Williams’ former partner earlier testified that he took the flashlight away from him because he did not think the force was necessary.
After Lyles was handcuffed, the video shows other officers pushing Williams away from Lyles.
“I went away a little bit to catch my breath,” Williams said.
The video shows Williams walked back over to Lyles.
He said Lyles spit at him, something that Lyles denies and other officers said they did not see. Williams said he told Lyles not to spit, and that he told him if he did it again, he would use pepper spray on him.
“He kept saying something to the effect of, ‘I can take you white boy,' and then a bunch of F-bombs,” Williams said.
He said Lyles spit at him again, and that’s when he used the pepper spray on him. He also offered an explanation for why his foot came in contact with Lyles’ face. He denied that it was a kick.
“I was turning his head away, because he had been spitting,” Williams said. “Being that he was covered in Mace, using your hands would be impractical [...] the practical, sensible option was to use my foot to turn his head away.”
Prosecutors pointed out that Williams had not given that explanation when he was originally questioned by detectives.
Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Joey Fox, a training instructor, said he believed Williams broke the law when he used pepper spray and kicked, because Lyles clearly was no longer resisting. He also testified that department policy forbids officers from using pepper spray on a prisoner who is no longer resisting.
“Even if he’s saying, ‘I’m going to jump up and go to my car and get a gun,' he’s already down on the ground in cuffs,” Fox testified. “It does not appear from the video that there was any resistance at that point.”
Officer Rickey Upshaw testified about the confrontation that he had with Williams that night. He said he confronted Williams about using force on Lyles when he was handcuffed and not resisting.
“He said that I didn’t know what had happened prior the cuffs being put on,” Upshaw said. “He puts his finger in my face.”
Other officers had to separate Williams from Upshaw.
Upshaw reported what had happened to supervisors, triggering a criminal investigation that led to Williams’ firing, indictment, and now, conviction.
In court, prosecutors showed pictures of Lyles’ injuries. The pictures were taken more than two weeks after the incident. He had a purple bruises above his eye, as well as large bruises to his elbow and knee.
More than three years after his encounter with Williams, Lyles said he was pleased with the jury’s decision.
“I can go on with my life now,” Lyles said. “The video told everything. I knew I hadn’t done anything. He was at fault.”