WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A Wilmington police officer involved in an incident in October has been cleared of any wrongdoing, but new dash camera video showing exactly what happened has started a debate in the community over if excessive force was used.
New video shows WPD K-9 officer, Stafford Brister, lifting his police dog and forcing it through the driver's side window right into the driver's lap. Brister was one of the law enforcement officers who responded to a chase in Wilmington.
The video shows the police dog attacking the driver. Later, an injury report detailed that Johnnie Williams had lacerations to his face.
Monday, a grand jury made up of 15 people, saw the video several times and heard about the laws on the use of force and when a police dog can be used.
District Attorney Ben David said he wanted to put this case in front of the jury to decide if Brister should be charged with assault inflicting serious injury.
"I believed it was a close enough legal question that the community should decide whether the use of force was reasonable and I would not rule as a matter of law that it was," he said.
Ultimately, the jury decided Brister should not face criminal charges.
[Graphic Warning: click here to watch the video on a computer]
It all started on October 31 when authorities say Johnnie Williams drove through a DWI checkpoint at Market and 15th Streets, leading several law enforcement agencies on a chase which ended on Castle Hayne Road and N. 23rd Street.
Dash camera video shows just how dramatic the chase was. At one point, a patrol car even turns the wrong way down a one way street trying to catch Williams. Officers reach him outside a cemetery, but video shows Williams ramming into a patrol car before taking off again.
Video also shows Williams going up and down Wilmington streets, even running stop signs. Officers eventually forced him to crash.
Williams said the attack happened so fast, he claimed he didn't even have the chance to surrender. He went to the hospital for treatment of injuries from the police K-9. Williams face and shoulder required stitches.
Today, a grand jury indicted him on charges including assault with a deadly weapon on a government official, being a habitual felon and traffic violations.
An ongoing internal investigation is currently underway. Officer Brister will remain on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
Chief Ralph Evangelous won't comment on the video that was released Monday because of that ongoing internal investigation. He did say, however, "Sometimes the job we do is not pretty."
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