Austin police face a series of questions after local media revealed this week a video of an officer yanking a woman from her car and violently throwing her to the ground during a traffic stop.
The incident happened a year ago, but the Austin Statesman and KVUE-TV acquired the police video this week showing the arrest and detention of Breaion King – a 2nd grade school teacher.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters Thursday he was sorry for what happened to King after Officer Bryan Richter approached her in a Wendy’s parking lot to write her a ticket for going 50 mph where the speed limit is 35.
“You were approached in a manner and treated in a manner that is not consistent with the expectations of this police chief, of most of the officers of this police department, and most importantly, I think, of all of us as human beings,” he said.
Police commanders looked into the incident after it happened and ordered the officer receive more training and counseling, the chief said.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg has asked police to conduct a criminal investigation.
The chief said he has also ordered investigators to look into Officer Richter’s actions since the incident.
While authorities had already looked into a resisting arrest case, the media request brought up another controversial issue when it discovered video of another officer, who was transporting the woman to jail, making offensive statements about black people. Acevedo said police knew nothing about Officer Patrick Spradlin’s comments until they saw the video just a few days ago.
Both of the officers, who are white, are on desk duty, Acevedo said. The District Attorney is conducting a criminal investigation.
Breaion King, a 26 year old African-American woman, was driving on an Austin street in June 2015 when she sped past Richter, who was sitting in his patrol car using his radar gun. Dash cam video shows that after she passes the officer, he pursues her for about 30 seconds but doesn’t catch up with her until after she pulls into the Wendy’s lot and parks.
King gets out of her car and heads toward the restaurant but stops when Richter asks her to get back in her car. He walks toward her and asks her again to get back in the car. She does but apparently doesn’t close the door. The two of them are now out of view of the police officer’s dash cam.
According to the officer’s report, he says he asked King for her driver’s license, which was in her wallet under the driver’s seat. She questions whether he can ticket her after she is already parked.
“I was increasingly concerned with her uncooperative attitude and did(n’t) feel safe returning to me (sic) vehicle to complete the stop with her sitting half way out of the vehicle,” he wrote.
He called her “uncooperative.”
The dash cam video includes audio and after Richter asks King to put her feet back in the car, she says, “Can you please hurry up?”
The officer responds by telling her to stand up.
At this point he says in the report that he reached for her left arm and she pulled away, and began reaching for the front passenger side of the vehicle.
“Not knowing if they were a weapon there, I quickly reached into the vehicle after her and tried to gain control of her arms,” wrote Officer Richter, in his report.
He wrote that he then tried to get control of her arms.
During a scuffle in the car, the officer says, “Get out of the car,” and King replies, “I’m getting out of the car. Let me get out. Do not touch me.”
Officer Richter says she raised her arm with a closed fist and he felt she was about to throw a punch at him, “so I took her to the ground.”
Richter then can be seen pulling her forcefully from the car, and slings her toward the ground. He tries to handcuff King but she can be seen resisting.
She at one point stands up and Richter picks her up and takes her to the ground again.
He puts a set of handcuffs on her and yanks her up as another officer runs into the picture. Officer Richter wrote that, “She continued to be verbally aggressive and demanded I get the “Black Police…”
The officers report says she did not complain of any injury, and she refused EMS.
What did the second officer say?
A second video shows Ms. King sitting in the back of a patrol car, being transported to jail. She is leaning forward to talk to an officer in a front seat.
You cannot see Officer Patrick Spradlin, but you hear his voice. They talk about racism.
King asks the officer if he still believes there is racism.
Officer Spradlin says he does and asks her if she believes it goes both ways. She says she does and asks more questions.
Spradlin has one for her: “Why are so many people afraid of black people?”
King says she is trying to figure that out.
“I can give you a … really good idea of why it might be that way,” he says. “Violent tendencies.”
He goes on to say that white people are afraid of black people because “99% of the time you hear about stuff like that it is the black community being violent.”
Thursday, in Austin, Chief Acevedo read a statement from the Austin Police Association that said the officer’s comments were wrong and were not reflective of other Austin police officers.
“We recognize how incidents such as these can divide our city and cause mistrust,” the statement said. “We have met with community stakeholders and begun a dialogue. We hope that the conversation will lead to substantive changes that will help bridge that divide.”
CNN called both officers and left messages requesting comment.
Ms. King never filed a complaint with the Austin police.
One of King’s attorneys, Erica Grigg, said Thursday that her client was terrified and ashamed of what had happened.
“It took her a while to muster up the courage and put aside her fear,” said Grigg, whose firm began representing King in May.
King said it is a citizen’s duty to speak out about injustice to set an example for the 2nd Graders she teaches.
“What happened to me was inexcusable and the individual officers who violated my rights, and the public trust, must be held accountable in our courts of law,” she said in a statement provided by her lawyer.
“The violence we have recently seen against the men and women who serve us in uniform is also deplorable,” she said.
King has not filed suit but that is a possibility, Grigg said.
The Statesman and KVUE said it obtained video of the arrest this week.
Chief Acevedo said he was disturbed that King and other people are still hesitant to come forward about police misconduct.
“When we don’t come forward, everyone loses,” he said.
Chief Acevedo said in addition to the investigations into the officers’ conduct, he wants to know why he never heard about the incidents until recently. He has questions about why it didn’t rise up the chain of command to his office.
He also said he wants investigators to look at resisting arrest complaints, public intoxication arrests and other detentions that require monitoring to prevent abuse.
The chief said the meeting with the police union and community activists, which took place Wednesday, was a possible turning point.
“I saw movement yesterday,” he said. “Where we started, that three and a half hour meeting, and where we ended, were two very different places. But the work is not done.”