Delaware State Police trooper pleads guilty to assault

Daily State News
Posted 4/12/24

WILMINGTON – Prosecutors have secured multiple felony convictions, including Delaware’s first-ever conviction for Deprivation of Civil Rights, against a Delaware State Trooper for the assault of two juveniles, Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced Friday.

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Delaware State Police trooper pleads guilty to assault


WILMINGTON — Prosecutors have secured multiple felony convictions, including Delaware’s first conviction for deprivation of civil rights, against a Delaware state trooper for the assault of two juveniles, Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced Friday.

Cpl. Dempsey Walters, 30, was indicted in September 2023 for assaulting two juveniles in the Elsmere area — a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old — whose orbital socket was fractured by Cpl. Walters after he switched off his body-worn camera.

On Friday, Cpl. Walters pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and deprivation of civil rights, as well as two counts each of third-degree assault and official misconduct.

The state will seek 18 months’ prison time as part of the plea, the announcement said.

“We do not recommend prison sentences lightly – but there is no question that justice demands it here,” said Attorney General Jennings. “The defendant’s rampage against two kids, and his subsequent attempt to conceal his misconduct, was brutal, dishonest and unacceptable.

“It was a flagrant and felonious violation of his oath and an insult to his fellow officers; the consequences are serious. I am grateful to the prosecutors and police who have prioritized justice for these victims.

“And above all else I am thinking of the victims and their parents. Nobody should have to fear for their child’s safety – let alone from those sworn to protect.”

Col. Melissa Zebley, superintendent of the Delaware State Police said that in the wake of the incident, Mr. Walters was promptly suspended without pay and benefits, with the intent to dismiss.

“Our protocol emphasizes a divided strategy, prioritizing the criminal investigation first. Moving forward, the Delaware State Police will diligently pursue its administrative investigation.

“It is disheartening that the actions of one can tarnish the noble endeavors of many. However, I firmly believe that this isolated incident will not overshadow the unwavering dedication of our troopers.”

A Delaware State Police spokesperson said Cpl. Walters is suspended without pay or benefits.

The announcement said that on Aug. 17, 2023, Cpl. Walters was off duty and returning to his residence in Elsmere’s Lancaster Village when he made contact with a 17-year-old male. The two engaged in a verbal altercation and Cpl. Walters contacted Elsmere Police Department. Two officers responded and transported the 17-year-old to his home on Taft Avenue. He was turned over to his mother and was not arrested.

The following day, the announcement said, Cpl. Walters looked up the juvenile on Delaware Justice Information System, a controlled-access law enforcement database.

On the evening of Aug. 21, authorities said Cpl. Walters was on duty when a 15-year-old male was with three friends in Elsmere walking past the trooper’s residence.

The male and his friends decided to play a prank: The 15-year-old ran up to Cpl. Walters’ house, the announcement said, and covering his face, loudly kicked the door and ran off.

Cpl. Walters’ girlfriend allegedly called him, gave him a description of the 15-year-old, and informed him that he and his friends had fled. Cpl. Walters allegedly drove to his neighborhood and, en route, called state troopers and other police departments for assistance.

Back in his neighborhood and searching for the minors, authorities said Cpl. Walters was informed by a witness that several juveniles had just run down Taft Avenue. Cpl. Walters drove to Taft Avenue, where he met two Newport police officers who had responded to assist state police.

Cpl. Walters once again looked up the 17-year-old in DELJIS — revealing his address on Taft Avenue — and went to his house with the Newport police officers. The 17-year-old and a friend came to the front door, unarmed, and complied with all orders, including putting his hands up and appearing to kneel, the announcement said.

Cpl. Walters forcibly pulled the 17-year-old out of the doorway and forced him onto the ground, causing injuries, the announcement said. The juvenile was handcuffed and detained, but never formally arrested.

Cpl. Walters then allegedly heard that the 15-year-old and his friends had been found and detained and drove to their location.

When Cpl. Walters arrived, the 15-year-old was face-down on the ground with a different trooper attempting to handcuff him. Almost immediately upon arriving, Cpl. Walters dropped his knee onto the back of the juvenile’s neck and head, causing injury and causing him to scream in distress, authorities said.

While a trooper moved the 15-year-old to the back of a police vehicle, the announcement said, Cpl. Walters confirmed with a third trooper that the juvenile had kicked his door. Cpl. Walters then turned off his body-worn camera and walked to the police vehicle, authorities said.

While the 15-year-old was handcuffed and detained in the back of the vehicle, Cpl. Walters allegedly punched him in the face, fracturing his right eye socket. Cpl. Walters then walked around the vehicle and turned his body-worn camera back on.

Delaware State Police supervisors immediately referred the incident to the Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust when they uncovered Cpl. Walters’ misconduct.

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