A Prince George's County police officer has been convicted of assault and misconduct in office for repeatedly punching a man in the face as he was restrained in handcuffs and a seat belt last fall.
Cpl. Stephen Downey was found guilty on Thursday of second-degree assault and misconduct in office for the beating in October 2018.
The victim, Andre Verdier, thanked prosecutors.
"I was glad to be helpful to this case, and everything was accurate and true," he said at a news conference Thursday.
Downey responded to a call for service at a CVS store in Temple Hills on Oct. 29, 2018. He encountered Verdier, who police said was homeless and sleeping inside a shipping container in the drug store's parking lot.
Downey put Verdier in handcuffs and belted him into the front seat of his squad car, State's Attorney Aisha Braveboy said.
Then, Downey assaulted Verdier.
"Corporal Downey punched the individual in custody numerous times in the face," Braveboy said.
Verdier suffered bruises and a head contusion, prosecutors said.
The defense argued that Downey, who's spent eight years on the police force, felt threatened by Verdier even though he was restrained. Downey said he thought Verdier was going to headbutt him.
Police Chief Hank Stawinski said the officer's peers reported the alleged misconduct.
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"That's important to me, because it's about a healthy culture of accountability in professional policing," the chief said.
The allegation was investigated by the police department's internal affairs office, and the department then took it to the state's attorney's office.
Braveboy said this spring that county residents deserve good officers.
"The citizens of Prince George's County deserve to be protected by officers who operate with the highest degree of trust and professionalism," she said.
Stawinski apologized for Downey's actions.
"I stand here today to apologize, to ensure our community that this individual's actions don't represent the men and women who keep you safe," he said.
Downey is set to be sentenced in October. He faces up to 10 years for the assault charges alone. He has been suspended from the police department since he was indicted. An internal process regarding his potential firing is ongoing.