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Former Meridian Police Officer pleads guilty to excessive force charge

The Justice Department has announced that a former officer with the Meridian, Mississippi Police Department pleaded guilty to using excessive force against a man during a vehicle stop and arrest. 

According to court documents and statements made in court, Daniel Starks of Meridian shoved the victim twice as he was getting handcuffed by another officer and then unlawfully used his taser against the victim, even though the victim was compliant and handcuffed. As a result of the tasing, the victim immediately fell to the ground and groaned in pain, his hands restrained behind his back and unable to break his fall. While the victim was still on the ground, Starks pointed the taser at him and demanded that he stand up or else he would be tased again.

“Law enforcement officials who violate people’s federal civil rights are not above the law. This defendant is being held accountable for exceeding his authority and his power when he violated the victim’s civil rights,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to investigate and prosecute cases involving police officers who willfully violate the constitutional rights of others.”

“Those who abuse their positions of power will be prosecuted according to the law,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi. “This defendant chose to violate his duty and the law, the very law he swore to uphold, by his wanton and violent act against the victim. Justice is served.” 

“Law enforcement officers take an oath to serve and protect their communities,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Paul Brown of the FBI Jackson Field Office. “When an officer breaks this oath and abuses the authority given to them, they must be held accountable. Investigating violations of civil rights will continue to be a priority for the FBI.” 

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 26th. Starks faces a statutory maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This case was investigated by the Jackson Division of the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Wansley of the Southern District of Mississippi and Special Litigation Counsel Julia Gegenheimer and Trial Attorney Cameron Bell of the Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.

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