What to know about the Delaware state trooper accused of 'brutally assaulting' a 15-year-old

Dempsey Walters has been charged with several felonies.

September 28, 2023, 6:09 PM

A Delaware state trooper is facing multiple felony charges for "brutally assaulting" a 15-year-old and fracturing his orbital socket in response to an apparent doorbell prank, according to Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings.

A grand jury indicted 29-year-old Dempsey Walters on felony deprivation of civil rights -- the first use of a new statute -- felony assault, two counts of misdemeanor assault and two counts of misdemeanor official misconduct. He has been suspended without pay.

"When Dempsey Walters’ actions were uncovered through a DSP internal body-worn camera review, we immediately suspended him and initiated a criminal investigation. Since then, we have been working tirelessly with the Delaware Attorney General’s office to pursue justice," Col. Melissa Zebley, superintendent of the Delaware State Police, said.

"This indictment is a stark reminder that all citizens of this great state will be held accountable for their actions," Zebley said.

Walters' lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Timeline of events

On Aug. 17, Walters was off duty and returning to his residence when he got into a verbal altercation with a 17-year-old. Walters contacted Elsmere Police Department. The minor was driven home and turned over to his mother without being arrested, according to the attorney general's office.

The next day, Walters looked up the minor on the law enforcement database, according to the attorney general's office.

On the evening on Aug. 21, Walters was on duty when a 15-year-old and his three friends were walking past Walters' residence and decided to play a prank, the attorney general's office said. The 15-year-old ran up to Walters' house, covering his face, and kicked the door before running off, authorities said.

Walters' girlfriend called him and described the 15-year-old, telling him the teenagers had fled, according to the attorney general. Walters drove to his neighborhood and called DSP troopers and other police departments for assistance.

After hearing the 15-year-old and his friends were found and detained, he drove to their location, the attorney general's office said. The 15-year-old was face down on the ground with a different trooper attempting to handcuff him when Walter dropped his knee onto the back of the 15-year-old's head, causing injury and for him to scream in distress, according to the attorney general's office.

"Trooper Walters abused his position in a case of State sanctioned swatting. Punching a handcuffed, defenseless, 15-year-old in the face is an act of brutality and vengeance. Dropping a knee on the neck of a child is illegal and unconscionable, especially when a child begs for his mommy and none of the officers intervene," Sam Davis, one of the attorneys for the teens, said in a statement.

PHOTO: Bodycam footage shows an incident involving a Delaware State trooper and a 15-year-old boy after a prank, Aug. 21, 2023.
Bodycam footage shows an incident involving a Delaware State trooper and a 15-year-old boy after a prank, Aug. 21, 2023.
Delaware Attorney General's Office

Walters then turned off his body-worn camera and walked up to the 15-year-old, who was handcuffed and in a police vehicle, and punched him in the face, fracturing his right eye socket, according to the attorney general's office. Walters then walked around the police vehicle and turned his body-worn camera back on, the attorney general said.

"As a mother and grandmother, the footage in this case is hard to watch. As a prosecutor, the constitutional violations are stunning," Jennings said.

According to the attorney general's office, the body-worn cameras capture 30 seconds of buffer video when the camera is activated. Because the camera was off for less than 30 seconds, Walters' body-worn camera captured footage of the incident.

"Over the course of the evening, the Defendant chose to extract his own form of personal justice by embarking on a violent rampage, assaulting two defenseless minors, and attempting to conceal his misconduct. He will now face criminal consequences for his actions," Jennings said.

Walters is currently free on bond, according to victims' lawyers.

The victims' lawyers claim Walters "fabricated a story of a home invasion in his home, in order to embark on a personal vendetta and extract violence against the local teenagers."

"Witnesses who saw the incident indicate that Trooper Walters and other officers acted unjustifiably and unreasonably towards the teenagers and the families that evening," the lawyers said in a statement. "The families’ Attorneys are grateful for the swift investigation and prosecution against Trooper Walters, and look forward to a continued ongoing investigation against any and all officers who aided and abetted in the heinous crimes against the teenagers on the evening of August 21, 2023."

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