Black Texas woman seeks unity as white officers probed
Austin, Texas — A black Texas teacher thrown to the ground by a white officer during a traffic stop, and then told by another white officer on the way to jail that blacks have “violent tendencies,” said Friday she is grateful the police chief has publicly apologized.
But Breaion King said Austin police still have culture changes to make and called on the U.S. to come together after patrol car video of her arrest again heightened national attention and tension over police treatment of black people.
Newly released footage of her June 15, 2015, arrest is the latest in a string of videos showing tense encounters between police and blacks across the country. The most charged run-ins in recent weeks have been fatal, setting off protests, police officers being fatally shot and President Barack Obama holding a televised town hall on race.
Officer Bryan Richter nearly threw King into an adjacent truck in the parking lot of a Wendy’s after pulling her over for going 15 mph over the speed limit around lunchtime. Following a struggle, King was handcuffed and driven to jail by Officer Patrick Spradlin, who told her that “I don’t blame” whites for being afraid because of violence in the black community.
Both officers have been placed on desk duty and prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into Richter’s actions during the stop.
“If something is wrong, everyone needs to be held accountable,” King said. “So for me, I feel we’re starting to take the necessary steps for us to be able to come together as a community and the nation.”
King, an elementary school teacher, did not file a complaint after her arrest and said Friday she didn’t know she had that option at the time.
“I was embarrassed and I was ashamed and I did not know what I needed to do,” King said. “So through everything, honestly, what I did was I waited. I prayed. … And everything comes together when it’s time.”
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo condemned both officers’ actions and has called comments on the video “disturbing.” He said he had been unaware of the stop or the video until the Austin American-Statesman obtained a copy and began asking about it, and was critical of his chain of command for not alerting him at the time of the arrest.
Acevedo said the investigation of the officers will include their conduct in the year since the incident. He said the traffic stop had been originally classified as a level three use of force, which Acevedo said means there was no serious injury or complaint.
In one of two videos, Spradlin is heard asking King, “Why are so many people afraid of black people?”
King replies that she is also trying to figure that out.
“I can give you a really good idea why it might be that way,” he said. “Violent tendencies.”
Spradlin goes on to say, “Some of them, because of their appearance and whatnot, some of them are very intimidating.”
It is only a few moments into the traffic stop when Richter is heard in the video ordering King to “stop resisting” as he orders her out of the car. The angle of the video doesn’t fully show King while she is inside the car.
Richter orders King to put her hands behind her back while the two struggle on the ground.
Richter has been a police officer since 2010 and Spradlin since 2001, according to Austin police. Listed phone numbers for the officers could not be found.
Acevedo said he reviewed the video Wednesday with black community leaders for nearly 3 ½ hours. He said they included Fatima Mann, an activist with the Austin Justice Coalition, who said she didn’t understand how no one in the department had previously raised concerns about the video.
“If that was a white woman, would he have yanked her out … and slammed her on the ground? Most of us could say absolutely not,” Mann said. “But for some reason, for some strange reason, when people look like me, we’re more of a threat, and that means we get treated and thrown around as if we don’t matter.”
The Austin police union said in a statement that it understands the public’s reaction to Richter’s response and that Spradlin’s comments were “wrong and not reflective of the values and beliefs of the men and women who serve this community.”
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