Jury deliberation begins Thursday for the Livingston police officer who prosecutors described as a “rogue cop” and “bully” while using too much force against a man who claims to have once dated the officer’s wife.
The prosecuting and defense attorneys gave their closing statements Wednesday in Merced Superior Court for the criminal case against Livingston police Officer Tyson Perry.
Perry, 38, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of battery with serious bodily injury and assault by a peace officer in connection with a 2012 incident.
Perry was supervising a custody exchange between Dwight Larks, 39, and the mother of Larks’ 15-year-old daughter on May 21, 2012. Prosecutors claim the officer unnecessarily handcuffed Larks, a real estate agent, and used too much force while taking the man to the ground and smashing his face into a concrete porch.
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“This is a police beat-down and cover-up,” said Thomas Min, the deputy district attorney prosecuting Perry.
Min noted that only Perry filed a police report. He argued that the then-sergeant told another responding officer, Michael Baker, not to file a report, and neither officer submitted an audio recording of the arrest.
Larks, who now lives in Merced, also has filed a lawsuit against Perry, Baker and the city of Livingston.
This is a police beat-down and cover-up.
Thomas Min, Merced County deputy district attorney
Min said Perry had animosity toward Larks, who claims he dated the officer’s wife for about two months in 2002. The prosecutor also argued that Perry was a “rogue cop” who did little to calm the tense situation that ultimately ended in Larks’ arrest.
“He’s the one adding fuel to the fire,” Min said. “He doesn’t want to back down. ... This is all personal.”
In May 2012, Larks had taken his daughter to school, according to testimony, where custody would change over to the girl’s mother. It was then that Larks learned the girl was suspended from school because she was caught shoplifting during a school trip the previous day, according to trial testimony.
Larks took his daughter to get some food before she complained she felt sick. So he took her to his Livingston home, where she was sleeping just before noon when Perry and the girl’s mother arrived, authorities have said.
Min argued a court order for the couple required that exchanges happen either at the school or at the Livingston Police Department. Larks did not comply with the officer’s demands to get his daughter and the officer proceeded to arrest him, Min said.
Alison Berry Wilkinson, Perry’s defense attorney, argued that Larks violated the order by having the daughter on a day specified for the mother.
“(Perry) was only doing on May 21, 2012, what the law demanded he do,” she said. “That was his duty that day.”
Wilkinson said Livingston police and statewide officer training allow for police to use “reasonable force” and “pain compliance techniques” when necessary while making an arrest. She went on to say Larks’ account of the events was not consistent and he did not immediately report having a head injury.
That mythical head slam is a creation created later. Why? He realized he had something to gain.
Alison Berry Wilkinson, the officer’s defense attorney
Larks testified that after he was already on the ground, Perry used his hand to slam the man’s face into the concrete. Wilkinson argued he was exaggerating to pile on evidence for his lawsuit against the “deep pockets” of the city of Livingston.
“That mythical head slam is a creation created later,” she said. “Why? (Larks) realized he had something to gain.”
Each attorney quoted testimony from different doctors, one who said Larks suffered a concussion and another who said he didn’t.
Larks, in his lawsuit, is seeking unspecified damages. 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 was a sergeant before the incident, but was never arrested. He still is employed by Livingston Police Department, officials have confirmed, although it’s unclear in what capacity.
The jury’s deliberation is expected to begin Thursday morning.