A Delaware State Trooper has been charged with two felonies, including Delaware’s first use of a Deprivation of Civil Rights statute, for punching a teenager and fracturing his orbital socket in response to an apparent prank.
Trooper Dempsey Walters, 29, is suspended without pay and was indicted Monday on six counts:
- Deprivation of Civil Rights, a Class B Felony, for depriving Victim Two of his constitutional rights under color of law and causing serious physical injury
- Assault 2nd Degree, a Class D Felony, for causing serious physical injury to victim two
- Two counts of Assault 3rd Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor, for intentionally causing injury to victims One and two
- Two counts of Official Misconduct, a Class A Misdemeanor, for committing an unauthorized exercise of official function against victims one and two
A press release detailing the case includes video from the events of Aug. 21.
Four days earlier, Walters was off duty and returning to his home in Elsmere’s Lancaster Village when he made contact with a 17-year-old minor described as victim one.
The two argued and Walters contacted the Elsmere Police Department. Two officers responded and took victim one, who was not arrested, to his home on Taft Avenue.
The next day, Walters looked up the juvenile on the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System, which only law enforcement and court officials can use.
On Aug. 21, Walters was on duty when a 15-year-old minor referred to as victim two, and three friends — none of whom were victim one — were walking past Walters’ residence.
Victim two and his friends decided to play a prank: He ran up to Walters’ house and, covering his face, kicked the door and ran off. Walters’ girlfriend called Walters, gave him a description of victim two, and told him that the youths had run off.
Walters drove to his neighborhood, calling other police for assistance.
In his neighborhood, Walters was told several juveniles had just run down Taft Avenue. Walters drove to there, where he met two Newport police officers. Walters once again looked up victim one in DELJIS, saw his address on Taft Avenue—and went to his house with the Newport officers.
Victim one and a friend came to the front door, and Walters pulled victim one out of the doorway and forced him onto the ground, causing injuries. Victim one was handcuffed and detained, but never formally arrested.
Walters then heard that victim two and his friends had been found. When Walters arrived, victim two was face-down on the ground with a trooper trying to handcuff him. Almost immediately, Walters dropped his knee onto the back of victim two’s neck/head, causing injury and causing victim two to scream in distress.
As a trooper put victim two into a police vehicle, Walters confirmed that victim two had kicked his door. Walters then turned off his body-worn camera and walked to the police vehicle.
While victim two was handcuffed and detained in the back of the vehicle, Walters punched him in the face, fracturing his right eye socket. Walters then walked around the vehicle and turned his body-worn camera back on.
The body-worn cameras used by Delaware law enforcement capture 30 seconds of buffer video, without audio, when the camera is activated, the DOJ press release noted.
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Walters’ body-worn camera captured continuous footage even though it was turned off since less than 30 seconds elapsed between Walters turning off and reactivating the camera.
Walters’ actions were discovered during an internal body-worn camera review and the case was referred to the state Department of Justice’s Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust, said Col. Melissa A. Zebley, superintendent of the Delaware State Police.
“This indictment is a stark reminder that all citizens of this great state will be held accountable for their actions,” she said. “Ensuring public safety and continuing to rebuild trust are our top priorities, and we are committed to achieving them no matter how long it takes.”
“Over the course of the evening, the defendant chose to extract his own form of personal justice by embarking on a violent rampage, assaulting two defenseless minors, and attempting to conceal his misconduct. He will now face criminal consequences for his actions,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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