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Report: Rehoboth officer justified in Taser case

Whitman cleared of criminal acts
The Delaware Department of Justice has found that Cpl. Robert Tyler Whitman of the Rehoboth Beach Police Department acted legally in using a Taser and kicking Jeremy Anderson during an arrest April 7. Whitman could still face internal discipline from the Rehoboth police department. SOURCE FILE
August 6, 2013

The Delaware Department of Justice has found that a Rehoboth Beach police officer acted legally in April when he used a Taser and kicked a man to subdue him.

In a letter to Rehoboth police Chief Keith Banks, the Department of Justice said Cpl. Robert Tyler Whitman’s use of force, in which he deployed a Taser and kicked Anderson in the head, was not criminal and was within his duties as an officer trying to arrest Anderson. The letter cites Delaware code, which allows for use of force if it is immediately necessary to effect an arrest.

“Given the duration of the struggle between Anderson and police, and their inability to arrest him despite the escalating use of physical force, Whitman reasonably believed that his actions were necessary to effect he arrest as well as protect himself from harm,” the letter said.

Banks said Whitman could still face internal disciplinary action, and has been notified of possible discipline in accordance with the Policeman’s Bill of Rights. Banks said he regrets the incident took place, but he is glad to see the investigation come to a conclusion.

On April 7, Whitman and Cpl. Curtis Sauve were called to the Crosswinds Motel in response to a complaint that Anderson, 34, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., was cursing and yelling at the hotel staff trying to get a key to the room of his girlfriend, Candace Brubaker.

The Crosswinds staff told Anderson they could not give him a key because his name was not on the room. Anderson began cursing and yelling at the staff, leaving and returning four separate times.

Whitman and Sauve found Anderson sitting on a bench in front of the motel. The officers introduced themselves, and when they asked to speak with Anderson, he said “No, I’m good,” the Department of Justice letter said. When Sauve tried to arrest Anderson, a struggle ensued. Whitman attempted to help, and the three fell to the ground. Unable to cuff Anderson, Whitman decided to use his Taser.

Brubaker began recording video as Anderson reached his feet and put his hands up, at which point, Whitman deployed his Taser.

The Department of Justice letter said Anderson went to the ground and immediately pulled out one of the probes. Anderson continued to struggle as Sgt. Victor Letonoff arrived on the scene. Sauve had cuffed one of Anderson’s hands and was trying to get the second as Whitman continued to Taser him.

As Anderson lay on the ground, the Department of Justice said, he tried to bite Whitman on the leg. Whitman responded by kicking Anderson.

Brubaker later uploaded the video to YouTube where it quickly went viral. The Department of Justice letter said Anderson is “combative and noncompliant” throughout the video. Even when placed in the patrol car - on the video, Anderson tells the officers “I’ll see you in court” - the department says Anderson began banging his head against the Plexiglass shield between the front and rear seats. He later refused medical treatment.

Anderson was arrested and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor resisting arrest, offensive touching of a law enforcement officer and menacing. He received one-year probation and was ordered to pay fines and court costs.

Other than an interview with a Philadelphia TV station, Anderson and Brubaker have declined interviews. The Department of Justice letter said Anderson declined an interview request for its investigation; Brubaker asked to speak with an attorney before interviewing but has so far not contacted the department.

The April 7 incident was initially reviewed by Dover Police Department before being turned over to the Department of Justice in May. Whitman had been placed on administrative leave with pay as the investigation went on, while Sauve and Letonoff remained on active duty.