RACINE — The jury is expected to continue deliberations today in the case of the Racine Police officer accused of using excessive force against a Park High School student in 2015.
On Thursday, jurors heard about 4½ hours of testimony from an expert witness on excessive force. Brinelle Nabors, 38, is facing charges of felony misconduct in public office and misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct.
Both sides also made their closing arguments to the jury, which began deliberations at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
At about 6 p.m., Racine County Circuit Court Judge Mark Nielsen released the jury for the evening. The jury is scheduled to continue to deliberate at 9 a.m. today.
Robert C. Willis, a semi-retired law enforcement officer who wrote and trained Wisconsin police officers and instructors on the use of force, took the stand as a witness for the defense.
Willis said he was contacted by Assistant Racine Police Chief Chuck Weitzel about a year after the Park High School situation to look at the evidence and come to a determination as to whether Nabors was within his right to use force in the situation.
The report, which the prosecution stated was paid for by the Racine Police Department, concluded that Nabors’ actions on that day were “objectively reasonable under the circumstances.”
Willis analyzed frames from the surveillance video of the incident. Willis observed that with a cooperative subject, police are normally able to successfully handcuff the subject within 10 seconds — it took Nabors 28 seconds, which to Willis suggested the juvenile had resisted.
He also analyzed frames from when Nabors and Officer James King were escorting the juvenile to the principal’s office and noted body language and movement that suggested that the juvenile was again resisting and that Nabors was “losing control” of the subject.
Willis also noted that the video, at the point when Nabors punched the juvenile does not directly show the impact due to the angle of the camera from the action. It does show Nabors swing and the juvenile’s reaction.
“If this were followed by more strikes I’d be very concerned,” Willis said. “The fact is that it is not followed by more strikes. The fact is that it is followed by a control technique, and the fact is that they are concerned about his health and well-being and ask him if medical assistance is needed.”
During closing arguments, Special Prosecutor James Kraus from the Kenosha District Attorney’s Office said the testimony of Nabors and the second officer who assisted Nabors, James King, were not consistent with video footage.
He said that the video supported the student’s version of events. “He (Nabors) wanted to take a shot at this kid,” Kraus said.
He also took issue with the testimony of the expert witness, noting that he was paid by the Racine Police Department and the defense to appear, and therefore his testimony reflected that.
Nabors’ attorney, Patrick Cafferty, criticized the state for not providing its burden of proof and said that Kraus had only poked holes in the defense’s case.
He also went through the student’s version of events, calling his testimony false. “He lied to you,” Cafferty said, addressing the jury.
Cafferty also said his client’s testimony was consistent from the time of the events and complimented Nabors’ character.
“Brinelle Nabors is a decent guy,” Cafferty said.
The charges stem from a Nov. 20, 2015, incident at Park High School in which Nabors was working as a security officer. Nabors was told that a 14-year-old student had “lean,” a mixture typically containing codeine-based cough syrup, soda, candy and sometimes alcohol.
Nabors allegedly took the student to the lunchroom floor and handcuffed him. As the student and Nabors and another officer headed to the principal’s office, Nabors allegedly struck the student in the face and held him against a locker, according to the criminal complaint.
Nabors, who has been on paid suspension since the incident, said the student was showing signs of resistance, which prompted Nabors’ response.