A video of McKinney, Texas, police officer Eric Casebolt roughly subduing 15-year-old Dajerria Becton (without any apparent physical provocation) and pointing a gun at two male bystanders has been viewed more than 5 million times since being uploaded to YouTube Saturday. (Becton was not charged, and Casebolt has been put on leave pending an investigation.) A Facebook post by the McKinney police department says the video depicts events on Friday that took place after officers received calls regarding a "disturbance" at the Craig Ranch North Community Pool involving teenagers who do not "live in the area" and did not "have permission" to be present. Other tellings suggested police had overreacted in the extreme to the legitimate presence of nonwhite guests at a pool party. Which account is true?
Based on the available information, the answer seems to be: both.
A woman identifying herself as Tatiana Rhodes says on another widely circulated YouTube video that she, her sister, and some friends hosted the party; she says that she lives in the Craig Ranch area and that most of the other people at the party did as well. A Huffington Post piece on Rhodes and her mother portrays the event as a low-key end-of-school event involving "food, fun, and music."
On the other hand, an area resident complained on Facebook that "teenagers (both black and white) were being brought into our neighborhood by the carload because the DJ was tweeting out invites to a 'pool party.'" Right-wing site Breitbart quoted another who complained about "outside kids invading our neighborhood." (Both residents made unsubstantiated references to "assaults" committed by party guests. Only one arrest—for interfering with a police officer and evading arrest—was reported after the incident.)
A local Fox reporter tweeted a flier-style image advertising a Friday party at the pool, adding a caption about neighborhood suspicions regarding party patrons' origins.
The pool party was advertised on social media. Homeowners say none of the nearly 70 people were allowed to be there pic.twitter.com/pZZy9htEK3— Zahid Arab (@ZahidArabFox4) June 7, 2015
But if you compare a few more details, it turns out that the "neighborhood party" and "outsider DJ party" theories don't actually contradict each other. She doesn't identify herself as such in the YouTube video, but Rhodes appears to be part of the "Ttwinzz Promotions" group mentioned on the card. To wit: Rhodes says in her video interview that white adult women at the party called her a "black f---er" and made references to Section 8 public housing before attacking her. A video posted by @k1dmars, identified by the Huffington Post as Miles Jai Thomas, shows some of this altercation:
Thomas' tweet refers to a @keef_cakez Twitter account. @keef_cakez's Twitter bio refers to "chiraq" and "texa$;" the Huffington Post piece about Rhodes and her mother, Lashauna Burks, says the family moved to Texas from Chicago. @keef_cakez's account also advertises Ttwinzz Promotions, while public records indicate that Lashauna Burks lives in a home that is, in fact, less than a half-mile from the pool address listed on the flier above.
Ttwinzz Promotions, by the way, does not appear to be a big-time outfit—its Instagram account indicates that the McKinney event was only the second it had ever organized. The 15-year-old who shot the video of Casebolt taking down Becton told BuzzFeed that (in that publication's words) "many students had arrived at the end-of-school celebration at the pool on guest passes" while "some had also jumped over the fence." So what we seem to have here is a gathering for teenagers, hosted by area teenagers who are also self-described party planners, which became larger than residents were comfortable with. Look at it one way and it's a "mob scene;" look at it another and it's police overreacting to local kids getting together at the end of the school year.
We may never know the exact factual details of the wider circumstances surrounding officer Casebolt's inflammatory use of force against Dajerria Becton and other teens—and that context likely wouldn’t excuse his actions, which to this observer are clearly out of line. But the diverging accounts of exactly what happened in McKinney before that viral moment illustrate one fact for certain: Any question involving race, even one as seemingly simple as who was at a pool party, is liable to become very contentious in present-day America.