Rockville, MD – The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office announced its intention to charge a police officer with assault after he was caught on video using force on a suspect who spit blood at police officers (video below).
The incident occurred on July 3 at a McDonald’s in Aspen Hill when officers from the Montgomery County Police Department’s (MCPD) 4th District Special Assignment Team were conducting a drug sting operation on a psychedelic mushroom dealer at a McDonald’s, WTTG reported.
Undercover officers concluded the drug deal with 19-year-old Arnaldo Pesoa but when they went to take him into custody, he resisted arrest and fought with them.
Multiple videos of the incident were filmed by bystanders from inside and outside the restaurant.
A cell phone video filmed inside the restaurant showed the officers trying to take Pesoa into custody as he fought them.
The video showed that it took four officers to get handcuffs on the suspect, who screamed and fought the entire time.
Once Pesoa was handcuffed, the officers stood him up and walked him outside, the video showed.
The suspect continued fighting with officers after they took him outside, so the officers put Pesoa down on the sidewalk to search him for weapons and drugs.
The video showed that Pesoa continued to fight officers and resisted arrest from the ground.
When he started spitting blood at them, Montgomery County Police Officer Kevin Moris dropped his knee on the suspect's head to stop the attack, the video showed.
However, Peosa's head was off of the ground at the time which resulted in his head slamming into the pavement.
“I just spit my spit my f--king blood on your foot,” Pesoa screamed at the officer in the video.
So Officer Moris pulled Pesoa’s shirt up over his head to act as a spit shield, the video showed.
Pesoa was arrested and taken to the Central Processing Unit for booking, according to WTTG.
He was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance, one count of attempted distribution of a controlled substance, one count of resisting arrest, and one count of second-degree assault.
Pesoa was released on a $5,000 bond, WTTG reported.
Cell phone videos of the incident filmed by bystanders quickly went viral and sparked outrage in the community.
Acting Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones announced on Friday that he was suspending Officer Moris’ police powers pending an internal affairs investigation of the incident, WRC reported.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy announced that his office had determined that Officer Moris had used excessive force during the arrest of Pesoa.
“While Mr. Pesoa was laying out on the sidewalk, an assault occurred at that point in time,” McCarthy told reporters. “There are multiple videos that have been widely distributed in the region that detail that particular assault. Mr. Pesoa did require medical attention on the scene as the result of injuries he sustained during the course of his apprehension.”
“The investigation is ongoing in this matter,” the state’s attorney continued. “But we announce today that this morning we filed in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County charging Officer Kevin Moris with two counts – second degree assault and misconduct in office.”
Then McCarthy said it was “a sad day” and acknowledged that Montgomery County is widely considered to have one of the best police departments in the country before he implied there was a systemic problem on the police force.
“We have sadly prosecuted cases many times in the past involving members of the Montgomery County Police Department,” he said. “I am troubled, as someone that’s been involved in law enforcement for a very long time in this community, at some of the recent events as well as some of the public comments… about the police and the community here in Montgomery County.”
“Our partnership with this community is central to everything that we do in this community, and if we do not work collectively together to guard that relationship, I fear for public safety,” the state’s attorney dramatically told reporters.
McCarthy said that he wasn’t sure what was going to happen to the charges against Pesoa.
Chief Jones told reporters that Officer Moris had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of his criminal investigation.
He also said that all internal investigations of the incident had been paused while the criminal investigation proceeded.
“We take excessive force cases very seriously, and this morning, I take no pleasure in Officer Kevin Moris being charged criminally in this matter,” Chief Jones said. “And based on what I observed on the video tape, I totally understand the state’s attorney’s office position. This does go to the point of our officers understanding that they have to be held accountable in order to earn the trust of our community. And I would also expect the criminal justice system to handle this case appropriately as they would do in all cases.”
Many have expressed concern that bringing down the hammer on a questionable result of an approved tactic will have a chilling effect on the active Montgomery County police force in much the same way Baltimore police were affected when Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby brought bogus charges against six officers for the April of 2015 death of Freddie Gray.
“The department is showing us officers two things: they don’t care about our safety and if you do your job, you will be charged. It’s time we learn to do nothing,” an angry Montgomery County police source told Blue Lives Matter.
The state’s attorney acknowledged that potential problem and commented on it during the press conference.
“And we do not want to have police officers [stop doing] their jobs because they’re afraid to do anything,” McCarthy said. “I think we know what that ends with. We’ve seen that too many times in too many communities across America, and we don’t want that.”
But police sources also said that officers felt as if everybody had turned their backs on them, including the prosecutors whom they work with to put criminals away.
"This county executive, the county council, and even our own police chief are more willing to defend a drug dealer who was spitting blood on the officer than the officer himself, who was doing what he'd been trained to do by his own department,” one Montgomery County officer told to Blue Lives Matter. “Even the state's attorney, who has prosecuted so many cases by that same officer, is now turning its back on the people who are there to address the criminals in their own communities."
Another police source said that charging Officer Moris sent the wrong message out into the community.
“This event only gives the common criminal in Montgomery County the confidence to commit more crime with a sense of immunity,” the officer told Blue Lives Matter.
Some officers blamed Montgomery County’s “sanctuary” status for adding to the problems in the community.
“Being a sanctuary county tells criminals we go easy on crime, and this is one more example of how yet another criminals is going to get let off and get a payday,” one police source said.
Chief Jones said that bodycam video of the incident would not be released to the public until after Officer Moris’ case has been adjudicated.
He said that Officer Moris had been on the Montgomery County police force for about seven years, but he did not release any information regarding the officer’s disciplinary record.
Watch three different cell phone videos of the incident here below: