Merced Co. Sheriff’s Sergeant pleads not guilty to felony assault

MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The lawyer for former Merced County Sheriff’s Sergeant Dustin Witt pleaded not guilty to multiple felony assault charges that stemmed from a March 11 incident.

Prosecutors say on that day, Witt was found to have used excessive force after he responded to a suspected DUI crash.

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office released disturbing body cam video of the critical incident, which appeared to show Witt kick the suspect, identified as 28-year-old Louis Jackson, in the head several times.

“Stop. It’s ok. We got him,” a deputy in the video said to Witt as he grabbed his arm.

Just before the incident Jackson and Witt got into a physical altercation, which led to the 28-year-old tased and kicked.

Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke says after they reviewed the incident, they began to investigate Witt’s actions.

“We immediately started an internal affairs investigation and requested the Merced County District Attorney’s Office to review this incident for a possible criminal investigation,” he said.

After the investigation was complete, Dustin Witt resigned from the Merced County Sheriff’s Office in June.

Witt walked into his first court appearance out of custody after he posted his $100,000 bond.

He is charged with felony assault by a public officer and assault likely to cause great bodily injury, both charges with an enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury.

“Your honor at this time he pleads not guilty to, I believe there are two counts. And denied the enhancement,” his attorney Roger Wilson said in court.

Merced County District Attorney Nicole Silveira said cases like this can show that the sheriff’s system works.

“This came to light as a result of their own internal checks and balances. So, you know, law enforcement is seeking to make sure that they are conducting themselves in accordance with the law and with honor,” she said.

Silveria said Witt faces a maximum of six years in state prison if found guilty of all charges.

He will be back in court for a pre-preliminary hearing on September 22.