Maryland officer charged with assault in videotaped arrest

FILE - This Wednesday, July 3, 2019 photo from the Montgomery County Police Department shows Arnaldo Pesoa. Maryland prosecutors have filed an assault charge against a Montgomery County police officer accused of kneeing a handcuffed man's head into a sidewalk outside a restaurant during a videotaped arrest. Court documents filed Tuesday, July 9, 2019, charge Officer Kevin Joseph Moris with second-degree assault and misconduct in office in the July 3 arrest of Pesoa. (Montgomery County Police Department via AP)

ROCKVILLE — A Maryland police officer seen on video kneeing a handcuffed man's head into the sidewalk during an arrest was charged Tuesday with assault.

Montgomery County Police Officer Kevin Joseph Moris is due in court Aug. 2 to face one count of second-degree assault and one count of misconduct in office in the July 3 arrest of Arnaldo Andres Pesoa, 19, of Silver Spring.

Moris, 31, has been placed on paid administrative leave. It wasn't immediately clear if he has an attorney.

Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy, who announced the charges against Moris during a news briefing, called it a "sad day" but stressed that officers who act "improperly" will be held accountable for their actions.

"It is absolutely fundamental to public safety that we foster a partnership between the police and our community," he said.

The police department suspended Moris' police powers and assigned the seven-year department veteran to administrative duties last week. A department statement last Friday said it began investigating Moris' use of force against Pesoa after videos of last Wednesday's arrest began circulating on social media.

The video shows the plainclothes officer kneeing Pesoa's head into the sidewalk outside a McDonald's restaurant in a shopping center as Pesoa lies prone on his stomach. Pesoa screams as his head slams down and his mouth appears to be bleeding. The officer then lifts Pesoa's shirt and covers his face with it.

Pesoa received medical treatment for his injuries, according to McCarthy. A booking photo shows a bruise above his right eye.

Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones, who joined McCarthy at Tuesday's news briefing, said his department takes excessive force complaints "very seriously."

"I have the utmost amount of confidence in our Montgomery County police officers every single day," he said. "But there are sometimes good people (who) do bad things."

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, the union that represents Montgomery County police officers, said in a statement that it can't comment on the charge against Moris "without knowing all the facts" and "without knowing anything more than what has been shown in the viral videos."

"Officer Moris, like all U.S. citizens, is innocent until proven guilty and has a right to due process under law," the union's statement adds.

The assault charge against Moris is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The department's internal investigation of Moris' use of force will be suspended pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, Jones said.

Pesoa was freed on $5,000 bail after his arrest on charges including drug possession, resisting arrest and second-degree assault of Moris.

A police officer set up a meeting to buy drugs from Pesoa after seeing his social media post of a photo of psychedelic mushrooms on a scale with the caption, "Bout to have a good trip," according to a police report.

When officers confronted him inside the restaurant, Pesoa didn't comply with Moris' commands, resisted arrest and spit on the officer's shoe as he was led outside, the report says.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) comments

glenkrc

Better coverage is found here: https://wjla.com/news/local/police-fight-at-aspen-hill-mcd - - - I'd encourage folks to view ALL the videos. You'll not only get a sense of just how long the encounter took (it was in two phases - inside the McDonald's, then outside, where the "excessive force" was used) but you'll also get a glimpse of the hovel that the alleged drug dealer lived in. Additionally, you're likely to gain some insight into the attitudes of the various "videographers".

MDchange

God bless the police. I can only hope society will once again start respecting law enforcement. Lots of people are quick to criticize poor judgement, which this appears to be. However, very few are proactive in expressing their support for law enforcement. That needs to change!

timothygaydos

so a drug dealer decides to spit/assault a police officer and wonders why he is slammed into the sidewalk????? check his status and if illegal deport immediately to his home country of record - if he is a legal citizen give him his day in court and throw him in jail for some time. Give the police officer a warning and send him to how to be a better law enforcement official to drug dealers...

gabrielshorn2013

What is on the video happened long after any alleged spitting on the officer's shoes, TG. He was prone on the ground not struggling at all when the officer landed on the suspect with his full weight. That did not happen the course of apprehension, but was retaliation. Unconscionable.

KellyAlzan

Tim, you should think about taking some civil rights courses.

timothygaydos

Thanks Kelly for the suggestion - maybe I should have added that the officer should be held accountable for his behavior and charged accordingly and have his day in court too and also the criminal suspect should get his just dues for selling drugs. Again thanks for the recommendation....

DickD

If the police officer was attacked first, there was no assault. Let's see what the facts are.

gabrielshorn2013

You had to see the video, Dick. The guy was on his stomach not struggling, when the officer raised up slightly, then put his shin and full weight on the suspect's head, smashing it into the ground. He later grabbed the suspect's hair while the suspect was still on his stomach, and jerked his head backwards. I don't know what could ever justify what was shown in the video.

DickD

If the video shows the entire incident, good. But if you just see the portion where the police man slammed his head into the cement it may not show the assault on the police man. Now, even if it does. It would appear that anger took over the emotions although understanding it would be beyond the need to control the subject.

KellyAlzan

When will police realize that cameras are everywhere? Whether it be while executing an arrest, or merely driving on a highway. You just don’t do stupid stuff like this. And this early morning I watched a trooper speed down 340 and. Tailgate other motorists. U even thought to myself, “does he realize he could be getting videoed?”

twhit8225

I always thought when someone is charged with a crime, the person charged would have his picture in the paper and not the person he is accused of assaulting. Maybe if the charged person was black and the assaulted was black things would be different

DickD

Maybe, individuals act differently and it is not always racial, like some think it is.

jwhamann

Police in Montgomery County are still using videotape?

dancing donna

Six months training at a Police Academy and shadowing another seasoned cop is not enough. Anger management needs to be included in the schooling and a more extensive evaluation of that potential cops underlying mental health status. Yes, "sometimes good people do bad things", as the article states. However, this behavior is extreme loss of control and the man in question was face down as I understand it. No doubt, cops are under top stress when on the job every day. There has to be better training for this so that cops don't simply explode on someone bc they cannot handle the stress/pressure. If they cannot control themselves, then go work somewhere that they can't hurt others and there is less pressure.

Samanthapowers

Agreed. Seems like that officer chose the wrong career path. Unfortunately this victim learned the officers mistake the hard way.

Comment deleted.
Samanthapowers

according to your logic, user, there are no bad cops (or criminal cops for that matter), just bad criminals?

Comment deleted.
shiftless88

You do realize that this is the pathway the Germans took in the late 30's. Just comply.

Comment deleted.
Samanthapowers

A sobering thought, shift.

DickD

I was wondering about the anger, as the article claims the officer was attacked and charged the one he kneed with assault too.

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