A Livingston police officer accused of excessive force is on trial this week and could find out his fate as early as Wednesday, according to the judge overseeing the jury trial.
Officer Tyson Perry, 38, is accused of unnecessarily throwing Dwight Larks to the ground and then driving Larks’ head into the cement during a supervised custody exchange of Larks’ daughter. Perry faces felony charges of battery with serious bodily injury and assault by a peace officer in connection with the 2012 incident.
If convicted, Perry could face about three years in state prison, prosecutors have said.
Larks, a 39-year-old real estate agent who now lives in Merced, also has filed a lawsuit against Perry and the city of Livingston, arguing the incident was the result of a relationship Larks claims he once had with Perry’s wife.
In his testimony Tuesday in Merced County Superior Court, Perry said that in May 2012 he arrived at Larks’ home with the mother of Larks’ daughter for a custody exchange. The woman had asked Livingston police to supervise the exchange, and Perry was assigned to the detail.
Perry testified that Larks came out of the house “red-faced” and agitated, and began pointing his finger in the woman’s face. Then Larks did the same to the officer, Perry said.
She’s asleep. I’m not waking her up.
Dwight Larks, referring to his daughter, in the audio recording
In an audio recording played in the courtroom, Larks refuses to get the girl from the house before telling the officer to leave his property. “She’s asleep. I’m not waking her up,” he said in the recording.
But the officer was violating the couples’ court-ordered custody agreement, argued Thomas Min, the deputy district attorney prosecuting Perry. The agreement states that the daughter is to be exchanged at a “neutral, public” location, which includes the child’s school or the Livingston Police Department.
Min, pointing to a transcript of the recording, noted that Larks asked Perry for a copy of the order 12 times and asked the officer to leave 14 times during the course of the arrest.
Perry testified that Larks was not complying with orders from police, so he put the man in handcuffs. “Turn around or I’m going to make you turn around,” Perry said in the recording.
At one point during the arrest, Perry said, he was loosening one side of the cuffs when Larks pulled away. The officer reached to grab the cuffs, which still had the key in them, and the pointed end of the key punctured the officer’s hand.
Perry then took Larks to the ground, which resulted in an injury to the man’s face, according to testimony. The attorneys for each party disagree on the extent of the injuries, with claims ranging from a minor abrasion to a concussion.
Turn around or I’m going to make you turn around.
Officer Tyson Perry in the audio recording
Larks was cited in 2012 on suspicion of resisting arrest and violating a court order, according to Merced County booking records. No case was ever filed against him, prosecutors have confirmed.
In his civil case, Larks claims he asked Perry if his relationship with the officer’s wife had anything to do with his arrest. Perry is accused of giving an expletive-laced response that included the words “payback” and “karma,” according to court documents.
Perry testified that Larks asked the question but he denies giving any response to the man, who was in the back of a police car. He also said he only found out after the arrest that his wife and Larks knew each other.
There is no record of Perry being arrested or booked at jail in connection with the allegations. Charges were filed last year by the District Attorney’s Office.
Larks, in his lawsuit, is seeking unspecified damages against Perry and the city of Livingston. He is seeking compensation for his medical care, loss of wages and distress, as well as the “deprivation of civil rights,” according to the claim filed in Merced Superior Court. The civil case is set for the new year, according to court records.
Perry still works for the Livingston Police Department, although it’s unclear in what capacity. Perry was a sergeant before the charges were filed.
Testimony in the criminal trial is expected to resume Wednesday morning before Judge David Moranda.