A former North Carolina police sergeant was recently charged with using excessive force against a female arrestee and obstructing justice after slamming the handcuffed woman face-first to the ground and allegedly writing a false police report to cover up the offense. Previously indicted on state charges of assault inflicting serious injury, the former cop will now face federal charges instead.
On November 11, 2013, then-24-year-old Chelsea Doolittle was driving her cousin to apply for a job when police officers approached her vehicle and demanded to search it. Due to the fact that Doolittle’s father formerly worked for the Hickory Police Department, she reportedly swore at the officers and refused to exit her vehicle.
According to HPD Sgt. Robert George’s arrest report, Doolittle injured herself by accidentally falling to the ground. But according to federal prosecutors, George forcibly dragged Doolittle out of the car, cuffed her wrists behind her back, and intentionally slammed her face against the pavement causing serious injuries to her head, face, teeth, jaw, and knees, as well as mental trauma.
“In truth, (George) then well knew that (he)…threw (her) down face-first to the ground while her hands were cuffed behind her back,” the indictment says.
After losing consciousness, Doolittle received medical attention before she was charged with two misdemeanor counts of resisting a public officer and one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. Although the charges against Doolittle were later dismissed, she required surgery for the injuries to her mouth and teeth.
Fired from the department after the incident, George was indicted on state charges of assault inflicting serious injury and scheduled for trial next month. But the state charges have been dismissed after the Department of Justice announced Monday that George now faces federal charges of using excessive force and obstructing justice.
“It is certainly an interesting development that the federal government pursued a criminal indictment against Robert George four-and-a-half years after the attack,” Doolittle’s attorney, Brad Smith, told The Charlotte Observer. “Ms. Doolittle’s civil case is still ongoing, and we are interested to see what else the federal government’s investigation might uncover.”
Doolittle has filed a lawsuit against the city of Hickory, George, and two other officers involved in her arrest.
Arrested on Monday, George was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond. The deprivation of rights charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. If convicted of the falsification of records charge, George could receive up to 20 years.