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Defense says Racine police officer in student battery case was using his training; jury deliberates

RACINE COUNTY -- Closing arguments concluded Thursday, Jan. 10 in Racine County. A jury will soon decide whether a Racine police officer used excessive force while taking a 14-year-old into custody in November of 2015. Conrad Cottingham was struck in the face and directed against some lockers during the arrest.

In lengthy testimony, the expert witness used by the defense told the jury Officer Brinelle Nabors was using his training the day he arrested Cottingham, who is now almost 18.

Brinelle Nabors

Robert Willis

"It is my opinion, to a reasonable degree of professional certainty, that Officer Nabors' handling of this encounter and arrest of the juvenile suspect was objectively reasonable under the circumstances," said Robert Willis, consultant.

Prior to criminal charges being filed against the officer, Willis was hired by the city in 2016 to analyze the November 2015 arrest of Cottingham, who was suspected of having a bottle of alcohol or narcotics on Washington Park High School grounds.

During the arrest, Cottingham was directed against the lockers. He was also struck in the face by the officer while in handcuffs.

"Handcuffs do not mean someone is in total control," Willis said.

Conrad Cottingham

The defense said Cottingham was verbally threatening and cussing at the officers. The tactics were used to keep him under control.

Brinelle Nabors

"Officers are allowed to take preemptive actions... preventative actions, so they don't get punched, they don't get bit, they don't get kicked," said Willis.

Willis demonstrated different arrest tactics. He also broke down the surveillance video frame by frame so the jury could see the shifts in Cottingham's movements.

Robert Willis

"It's my opinion he is doing something that's caught the attention of both officers simultaneously. To me, a dramatic change in the behavior of his feet," Willis said.

Prosecutors alleged the video never showed Cottingham posing a threat, and Officer Nabors should have used other options.

Prosecutors also said Cottingham's pants were falling down during the arrest, which explains the shifts in movement.

Officer Nabors was charged with misconduct, battery and disorderly conduct. He's been on paid leave since the incident.

A jury will decide if he used excessive force.

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