A Merced County Sheriff’s Office deputy with a troubled history and a misdemeanor conviction was charged Wednesday with assault for repeatedly kicking a DUI suspect in the head numerous times, authorities said.
Dustin Witt, 42, a former sergeant, was booked for assault by a public officer and other charges for the March 11 incident. He resigned in June amid an internal affairs investigation.
“It breaks my heart to have to share this incident with you, but rest assured this is not something I take lightly,” Sheriff Vern Warnke said. “I want to be clear that this incident was isolated and does not reflect the actions of the rest of our agency.”
The charges stemmed from an encounter caught on body-camera video with a man named Louis Jackson, who was arrested following a crash in which he was suspected of driving under the influence, according to the Merced County district attorney’s office. Witt responded to the scene, though he was not the first officer to arrive.
“There’s no need for a sobriety test. I’m drunk. I’ve been drinking,” Jackson said.
Witt then makes a comment to Jackson’s girlfriend that upset Jackson, the video shows. He swings an arm after a deputy tries to touch him, though he does not hit any deputy.
Then Witt moves toward Jackson and pushes him and the two begin to fight.
Another officer deployed his Taser on Jackson, who fell to the ground, where Witt began to kick him in the face, then stomp on his head, video shows.
Jackson’s head is under a Sheriff’s Office car and he screams as Witt kicks him, the video shows.
Another deputy says “stop” and grabs Witt’s hand.
“It’s OK, we got him,” the deputy says, seemingly trying to get Witt to stop assaulting the man.
Witt keeps his foot on the man’s neck as they handcuff him, the video shows.
Witt was still serving as a deputy despite a 2019 demotion and misdemeanor conviction following a drunken brawl during which he and another deputy — who was also a Merced City Council member — beat up another peace officer and a bystander, according to the Merced Sun-Star.
The bar brawl on Dec. 15, 2018, followed a Sheriff’s Office Christmas party where Witt admitted to “heavy drinking,” according to the Sun-Star.
The fight included a bystander, who one deputy said he recalled holding while Witt or another deputy “punched the man in the face repeatedly,” according to the report.
The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on why Witt was not fired following the 2018 brawl and misdemeanor conviction.
The Merced County district attorney confirmed that Witt was the same deputy.
Witt was also a member of the Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 unit.