AUSTIN (KXAN) - Just after 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve, Austin police officer Sean McWhorter and his rookie trainee respond to a suspected case of driving while intoxicated. The incident is captured on the officer's squad car video.
The video shows the suspect refusing to cooperate during any field sobriety tests, repeatedly telling the officers he was not driving the car. Finally, the suspect says, "Take me to jail," and the officers put him in handcuffs and place him at the front of the patrol car while they search his pockets.
The video shows the suspect lunge at McWhorter, who forcefully puts the man's head down on the hood of the patrol car. McWhorter's superiors approved of that action.
"To head butt, to try to head butt -- that could be very serious," said APD Commander Michael Nyert. "So he's trying to restrain him, get him down."
But it is what happened next that got McWhorter suspended. After the suspect appears to spit on the officer, McWhorter grabs his neck and slams his face in to the hood of the patrol car one time.
"It was a spit and the officer reacted because of that, an inappropriate reaction," said Nyert. "We may understand, but we can never accept that type of behavior."
- Was the officer justified? Take the poll at left
The suspect was not seriously injured in the incident. APD said he had a bruise on his cheek. McWhorter served his five-day suspension for using excessive force in late June and early July. He is back to work as a patrol officer.
But not everyone at the Austin Police Department believes he deserved the suspension.
"You can obviously see the individual spit at the officer and the officer used a technique that our officers use. (He) put him down on the hood in a way that discourages him from trying to get up," said Sgt. Wayne Vincent, president of the Austin Police Association.
"The bottom line is you have an individual who spit at a police officer, tried to head butt a police officer. We understand he's had the charges dropped, and it's the police officer who became the bad guy here."
In fact, it was a review of the video by the district attorney's office that led APD to take a closer look at the incident. The DA's office was reviewing the video because the suspect on tape was charged with harassment of a public servant. After viewing the video, that charge was dropped.
"I thought it was appropriate," said Vincent, speaking to the use of force. "Sometimes these things don't look that good. But an officer must respond when he's assaulted. And let's face it, when you're spit at, you are being assaulted."
Previous discipline for McWhorter included two written reprimands for minor car accidents in his six years on the force. His superiors said they are confident this was an isolated incident, but he will no longer be allowed to be a field training officer.
"He knew that he had done wrong and he won't let it happen again," said Nyert. "As a police department, we apologize for the behavior. It's a one-time situation with this officer. A poor response, and we've got a very good, very professional department here."
McWhorter is only the second officer to be suspended by Chief Art Acevedo since January 2011. Alternatively, the Austin Office of the Police Monitor has received 81 allegations of excessive use of force in the same time period.
The expected winter weather has delayed initial construction work on MoPac until the rain and cold temperatures pass through.
A teacher from Texas was shot and killed while jogging in Benghazi, Libyan officials confirmed Thursday.
Family and friends held a vigil Wednesday at the State Capitol in hopes that a Bastrop man can win a new trial.
A bitterly cold arctic air mass plunging through Central Texas is breaking temperature records, and will be followed by a dangerous, potentially damaging ice storm.
The HealthCare.gov website is working more smoothly for central Texans.
City leaders in West Lake Hills discussed the ongoing concern with the city's water system Wednesday night. The problems arise when water is needed most; fighting fires.