Maryland Police Officer Accused of Excessive Force Testifies He Was Defending Himself

Jury deliberating the case

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A Maryland police officer caught on video apparently kneeing a restrained suspect in the head testified Wednesday the video doesn’t tell the whole story.

Montgomery County Officer Kevin Moris, 32, took the stand in his own defense, saying he was trying to protect himself.

Moris and his special activities team entered an Aspen Hill McDonald’s July 3 to arrest Arnaldo Pesoa, who was suspected of possessing psychedelic mushrooms with the intent to sell.

Moris testified the team grabbed Pesoa’s arms, but the suspect braced himself.

“I was trying to control and contain Mr. Pesoa in that booth,” Moris testified. “I said, ‘You are under arrest. Stand up.’ He was resisting, refusing to comply. I didn’t know if he’s fighting because he had drugs or drugs and a weapon.”

Moris testified his team pulled Pesoa outside.

“He spit toward my right foot,” Moris said. “I was wearing shorts with open skin. I’m worried I’m going to have blood exposure. I have to make a split-second decision to eliminate the threat. My goal is to pin Mr. Pesoa to the ground with my knee and end the spitting.”

He testified he got blood on his hand making an arrest in 2017 and had to undergo intense medical testing for six months.

In cross examination, Morris denied it was a knee strike to the suspect’s head or neck.

“From my training, this was the most effective way to deliver my body weight to bring him back to the ground,” he said.

He said a member of his team then told him to pull Pesoa’s shirt over his face to prevent more spitting.

Moris is charged with second-degree assault and police misconduct. The jury is deliberating whether he used excessive force or acted in self-defense.

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