WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – As video of a K9 handler in Wilmington gains national attention, the officer's attorney urges everyone to consider the big picture.
A 30-second clip from dash cam video shows Officer Stafford Brister boosting his dog into the car of suspect Johnnie Williams that officers had just been chasing for roughly 10 minutes.
Attorney J. Michael McGuinness said he worries when people watch the quick clip, they will not consider all the circumstances that led up to that moment.
"The fear that I have from the general public seeing a clip of the very end of this is that you don't get the history of the true Johnnie Williams," said McGuinness. "The true Johnnie Williams was an absolute terrorist on the streets that night."
A Grand Jury indicted Williams on charges of being a habitual felon, on top of the charges he faced from the night of the incident. Those charges include three counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official.
The same day, a Grand Jury chose not to indict Brister on a charge of assault to inflict serious injury. The fifteen people tasked with the decision saw all of the video from that night, which includes different dash cameras at various angles and video from the SABLE helicopter.
Watching the video Tuesday afternoon, McGuinness said officers would have been justified using deadly force at any time during the police chase. He said all the officers involved, including Brister, used restraint.
"Yes, I understand Mr. Williams got a dog bite, but he's lucky he didn't have his brains blown out," he said.
Brister is certified to use a K9 and that's what he used. His attorney said Williams holding his hands in the air as the dog approached was not enough to stop it from happening.
"I can understand how some persons would misinterpret that as a surrender," said McGuinness.
The attorney suggested anyone in that situation should put his hands out the window. He said too many officers have died from suspects making sudden moves.
"A lot of law enforcement officers have been murdered by criminal suspects like this with a long, violent criminal histories," he said.
Some have questioned the length of time until the dog is called off of Williams. To that, McGuinness said the dog is tasked with subduing the suspect until officers are sure there are no weapons within reach.
An internal investigation by WPD is still open, and McGuinness said he hopes the people watching this video will remember the dangerous chase that started it all before criticizing Officer Brister.
"He puts his life on the line everyday for Wilmingtonians and I do have a fear that his reputation will take a beating," he said.
When asked about a possible Federal investigation, McGuinness said he welcomes it as he and his client are willing to cooperate with whoever wants the details.
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