Montgomery Police Officer Charged with Assault in Alleged Brutality Incident
Charges stem from July 3 arrest in Aspen Hill
Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy speaks during a press conference on Tuesday morning in Rockville to announce charges filed against a county police officer.
The state’s attorney’s office has charged a Montgomery County police officer with assault and misconduct after a video was published to social media last week showing the officer kneeing a restrained suspect in the back of the head.
Kevin Moris, 31, has been charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office, according to online court filings, stemming from a July 3 incident in which undercover officers arrested a 19-year-old at the Aspen Hill Shopping Center.
During a press conference to announce the charges Tuesday morning, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said he is “troubled” by the alleged assault.
“It is absolutely fundamental that we foster a partnership between the police and our community,” McCarthy said. “… If a police officer acts improperly in Montgomery County, they will be held accountable.”
Police were investigating the suspect for allegedly selling psilocybin mushrooms, a drug that can cause heightened emotions and hallucinations.
When confronted, the suspect allegedly acted “in a disorderly manner” and resisted arrest, according to the police statement.
The 45-second video, uploaded to Twitter last Wednesday, shows a suspect lying face down on a sidewalk surrounded by several members of law enforcement.
The suspect’s hands are behind his back and he appears to be struggling on the ground while a male officer attempts to further secure his hands.
Approximately 16 seconds into the video, the officer, identified by police as Moris, delivers a knee to the back of the suspect’s head and neck.
Later, Moris grabs the suspect, 19-year-old Arnaldo Pesoa, by the hair and pulls the suspect’s shirt over his face, which appears to be bloody.
Pesoa was charged with intent to distribute a controlled substance, resisting arrest and assault.
The police department immediately launched an internal investigation and removed Moris from patrol. He was reassigned to “administrative duties,” according to police.
A hearing is scheduled for August 2 in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
Attorney information was not available for Moris in online court records Tuesday morning.
Interim Police Chief Marcus Jones said at the press conference he “totally understands the state’s attorney’s office’s position,” to file charges.
When asked if he thought Moris used excessive force during the arrest, Jones said there is “troubling evidence” to support the claim.
“It bothered me when I saw it, the excessiveness of Officer Moris slamming the suspect’s head to the pavement,” Jones said. “I have the utmost confidence in our officers … but there are some times that good people do bad things.”
Local officials, including the county executive and County Council president, have condemned the officer’s actions in public statements, calling the incident “horrifying” and “disturbing.”
“I have met with many officers who are dedicated to protecting and serving our communities fairly and with respect,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement last week. “However, incidents like this erode the trust people have in law enforcement.”
Multiple civil rights groups in the county have planned a protest on Tuesday at the County Council building in Rockville in response to the alleged assault.
Bethesda Beat staff writer Charlie Wright contributed to this report.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org