- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A federal jury returned a not guilty verdict Monday in the trial of a state trooper accused of assaulting a suspect by stomping on his head as the man lay face-down and handcuffed on his kitchen floor.

Kelly Cruz, 44, of Oxford, a longtime narcotics investigator, was charged with violating the civil rights of Zachary Bare, 22, during a 2009 arrest in Chester County.

The jury deliberated for several hours after closing arguments Monday before deciding Cruz’s use of force in the case was not excessive and acquitting him of the charges. The verdict prompted an outburst of cheers from his supporters in the courtroom, KYW-AM reported.

Bare’s nose was broken and some teeth were knocked out, according to court documents.

Cruz testified Friday that the suspect was cursing and threatening him, rolling back and forth with his shoulders and tried to rise, The Daily Local News of West Chester reported. Cruz said he feared for his safety, so pushed down on the suspect’s shoulder with his foot to get the man under control.

Under cross-examination, Cruz said the encounter took place in an instant and he didn’t have the opportunity to check for other options and didn’t know the man was handcuffed.

“I reacted to his actions,” Cruz said. “At that moment I did not know he was handcuffed. I responded the way I was trained to respond. I reacted to what I saw. If I fail, I don’t come home to my family.”

West Whiteland Officer Glenn Cockerham testified that he didn’t see anything that would warrant such use of force. He told state police investigators that Cruz’s response “was totally unnecessary” and Cruz appeared angry about having curses hurled at him.

“There was no reason for it,” he said, according to an investigators’ report. “I really couldn’t believe he did it. It didn’t have to happen.”

Defense attorney Christian Hoey argued that his client’s actions were necessary to prevent the suspect from becoming violent, even though they caused a broken nose and other injuries.

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