Caught on police dash cam video assaulting a handcuffed man before firing his Taser at him without legal justification, a former Mississippi police officer recently pleaded guilty to use of excessive force in federal court.
On July 14, 2018, Meridian Police Officer Daniel Starks reportedly chased a shoplifting suspect out of a Walmart on foot but was unable to catch the suspect, who escaped in a van. As the van fled the parking lot, a second officer pulled the vehicle over and began cuffing the suspect’s hands behind his back without incident.
According to police dash cam video, Officer Starks arrived at the scene and immediately grabbed the handcuffed suspect in a threatening manner after exiting his patrol car. Starks briefly released the suspect and returned to his car before abruptly returning to grab the arrestee again and shove him.
While reaching for his Taser, Starks dropped the Taser on the ground and scrambled around before retrieving it. Without warning, Starks pressed the Taser against the suspect’s back and fired it.
Unable to protect himself due to his hands being cuffed, the suspect dropped to the ground and hit the pavement while groaning in pain. As two other officers attempted to help the arrestee to his feet, Starks gripped him by the neck before reaching for his Taser again.
Aiming the Taser pointblank at his face, Starks ordered the handcuffed suspect to stand up or be shot again. Recoiling at the sight of the Taser, the arrestee managed to briefly stand for a moment before dropping to his knees.
According to police officials, the other officers reported the incident to their superiors after the arrest. On July 26, 2018, Starks was fired from the department after being suspended without pay following the incident.
The FBI’s civil rights investigators began reviewing the case after the Meridian Police Department reported the incident to them. On Tuesday, Starks pleaded guilty in federal court to using excessive force against a man during a vehicle stop and arrest.
“Law enforcement officials who violate people’s federal civil rights are not above the law. This defendant is being held accountable for exceeding his authority and his power when he violated the victim’s civil rights,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in a press release. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to investigate and prosecute cases involving police officers who willfully violate the constitutional rights of others.”
“Those who abuse their positions of power will be prosecuted according to the law,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi. “This defendant chose to violate his duty and the law, the very law he swore to uphold, by his wanton and violent act against the victim. Justice is served.”
“Law enforcement officers take an oath to serve and protect their communities,” noted Acting Special Agent in Charge Paul Brown of the FBI Jackson Field Office. “When an officer breaks this oath and abuses the authority given to them, they must be held accountable.”
Starks’ sentencing hearing is currently scheduled for October 26. He faces a statutory maximum punishment of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.