A Lincoln police officer testified Wednesday that he tackled Alfonzo Dennard after the former Husker punched a colleague in the face.
Officer Jerad McBride told Lancaster County District Court jurors he was standing outside Jimmy John’s at 14th and O streets April 21 during bar break when he heard fellow Officer Ben Kopsa yell for help.
McBride said he turned and saw Kopsa 50 feet away tussling with Dennard, now an NFL cornerback with the New England Patriots. With one arm locked in the struggle, Kopsa raised his other hand and motioned for McBride to help him.
McBride said he made a beeline for the two men.
Kopsa told Dennard to put his hands behind his back, but he didn’t obey, McBride told the court.
Instead, the two kept struggling, Kopsa trying to control Dennard, and Dennard trying to pull away.
McBride started running toward the men.
When he was 5 to 10 feet away, Dennard pulled his left arm out and away from Kopsa, who stumbled forward as a result, McBride said.
Dennard threw a right hook into Kopsa’s face, hitting him in the left side of his jaw, the officer continued.
“Once I saw Officer Kopsa get punched, I ran as absolutely fast as I could,” he said.
McBride said he launched into Dennard and tackled him.
“I just wrapped my arms around him and tried taking him to the ground.”
McBride said similar situations call for an officer to shock the suspect with a Taser, but since he was running fast at Dennard, tackling him was the safest thing to do.
Dennard’s attorney, Terry Dougherty, only had a chance to ask a few questions before Judge Stephanie Stacy adjourned for the day. His cross-examination was set to continue Thursday.
In his opening statement, Dougherty said his client didn’t struggle with Kopsa before the officer was hit. Dennard was obeying an earlier order from Kopsa to walk way from a brouhaha that was escalating, Dougherty said.
Kopsa approached Dennard from behind and grabbed his shoulder, Dougherty said, and Dennard thought somebody was attacking him and reacted by raising his arm and elbow and swinging around to break free.