June 8, 2015 / 3:53 PM / 3 years ago

Calls mount to fire Texas officer who threw girl to ground

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A rally is planned for Monday in the Dallas-area city of McKinney calling for the firing of a police officer seen in a viral video throwing a bikini-clad teenage girl to the ground and pointing his pistol at other youths at a pool party disturbance.

McKinney Police Corporal Eric Casebolt has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of how he responded to a disturbance at the party on Friday in the city about 30 miles north of Dallas, an incident that has raised fresh questions about racial bias in U.S. policing.

Casebolt, who is white, is seen shouting obscenities at black youths in a multiracial crowd, shoving a black teenage girl, briefly pointing his gun at the youths and throwing the girl in her bathing suit, who is black, to the ground, burying his knees in her back.

“We are demanding that the officer be fired and be charged with assaulting the youth,” said Dominique Alexander, the president of the Next Generation Action Network, which is organizing the rally.

The incident comes after a string of cases over the past year fueled waves of protests across the United States over what civil rights activists say is law enforcement’s unjustified use of force, often lethal, against minority groups.

Alexander and other civil rights leaders met McKinney officials and told reporters afterward they see the officer’s actions as being racially motivated. They also said they want a U.S. Justice Department probe of the incident.

Casebolt, a 10-year veteran once named the department’s patrolman of the year, was questioned by authorities on Monday, local media reported. He has not spoken publicly about the incident.

The seven-minute video, viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube as of Monday, shows officers responding to the incident, which police said started when scores of youths attended a party with a DJ at a community’s pool and refused requests to leave.

At the start of the video, one officer is speaking cordially with teens, telling them, “Don’t take off running as soon as cops get here.”

Dajerria Becton, the girl who was thrown to the ground by Casebolt, told local broadcaster KDFW that the officer twisted her arm and grabbed her by the hair.

“Him getting fired isn’t enough,” she said.

Several people wrote on the McKinney Police Facebook page that the youths antagonized police and that they should have obeyed when officers told them to stay put and keep quiet. A few area residents told local media the case was about unruly teens and not about race.

McKinney has about 150,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. African-Americans make up 10.5 percent of the population and whites about 75 percent.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Alan Crosby

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