Prickett: “Whenever, Man,” And Then The Beatdown

Ed. Note: Greg Prickett is former police officer and supervisor who went to law school, hung out a shingle, and now practices criminal defense and family law in Fort Worth, Texas. While he was a police officer, he was a police firearms instructor, and routinely taught armed tactics to other officers.

On July 6, 2019, after Baytown, Texas[1] police officers violently assaulted Kedric Crawford, police charged him with actually assaulting them. On July 11th, the police department released some of the body cam footage in the “spirit of transparency and to add some context.”

The problem is that the video doesn’t add the context they thought it would. It does the exact oppose, showing an apparently unprovoked beatdown and torture of a black Crawford by white police officers. And then, on top of that, because Crawford’s fingernails “scratched” an officer while Crawford was being beaten, he was charged with Assault on a Peace Officer.[2]

The only thing I can think is that whoever thought that releasing this particular video would be helpful in backing up the police side of the story is an idiot and should be fired.[3]

What the video shows is that the police were searching Crawford’s vehicle, and he’s questioning what’s going on. The officer stated that Crawford gave consent to search, and then Crawford asked, “when am I free to go?” The officer responded, “whenever, man.” This is where things start going downhill.

The officer just told Crawford that he could leave. And then tried to arrest him. You can see both hands behind Crawford’s back, you don’t see any type of resistance at all. Then the officer slams Crawford first into the hood of his car. and then onto the ground. It doesn’t appear to me that Crawford is resisting at all. Then Crawford is repeatedly tazed.

The police explanation for the multiple applications of the Taser was that it was “ineffective.” Bulls**t. You can hear Crawford screaming in pain each time it was applied. You can also see an officer shoving Crawford’s face into the pavement at one point. And then the Taser is reapplied and Crawford is screaming again. At about 2:15 in the video posted on the ABC13 website, you see an officer with an expandable baton, and Crawford is begging the officers not to kill him.

Look, I understand very well that the video may not show everything, that there may be something there that hasn’t been shown, and that we need to wait for all of the details to come out. But at this point, it doesn’t look anything at all like what the police department claims occurred. And it doesn’t look at all like the charges against Crawford are justified.

First, just the disparity in injuries. Look at the abrasion on Crawford’s face. Were an officer to be charged with an offense here, it would be at most a class A misdemeanor[4], but for a minor scratch from a fingernail, Crawford is looking at up to 20 years in prison.

This is wrong. Right now, the officers involved are still on the street, and an internal investigation is supposedly underway.

Baytown really needs to take a closer look at this. I understand that this is a blue-collar area, with refineries and chemical plants being predominant. I understand that this is sometimes a more challenging, rougher environment.

But this also isn’t Baytown’s first rodeo this year. In late January, Relpheal White ran from the police, was tazed “ineffectively,” and then mauled by a police canine. The officer involved has numerous complaints, none sustained.

In May, Pamela Shantay Turner was tazed, then shot and killed outside her apartment. Supposedly, Turner gained control of the Taser, but the cellphone video shows her on the ground when the officer fires five shots in rapid succession. If, in fact, Turner did get the Taser, the officer would be justified in using deadly force, but that leaves a more important question. The officer supposedly knew that Turner had mental issues, but he approached her by himself. Why not call and wait for backup?

Last October an off-duty Baytown officer broke out the window of Jeff Sprecher’s car and pulled him out of it, and then beat him, knocking out a tooth. When on-duty officers arrived, the off-duty officer was not arrested. The officer, Sergeant Christopher Felder, was subsequently indicted for the misdemeanor assault, although as of now, he is still listed on the police department’s website as patrol supervisor.

That’s four separate incidents within a year that indicate a problem with the use of force at the department. In most cases, the officers aren’t even taken off of the street.

It leads to excesses. Charging someone with a second degree felony as in the Crawford case is just an example of that. There should have been a supervisor to look at this, and to put a stop to it before it got to this point.

[1] Disclosure: Many decades ago, when I was still a young man, I was in a National Guard paratrooper unit in Baytown, and on drills would pick up the keys to the Armory from the police station. I could sleep on a cot in the Armory, and did, because getting a hotel would have cost more than I made at drill. Baytown is a suburb of about 76,000.

[2] Tex. Pen. Code § 22.01, which provides that an assault on an officer is a second degree felony, punishable by 2-20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

[3] The video should absolutely have been released, along with the other video from other officers. It just doesn’t support the narrative being pushed by the department.

[4] Either Assault with Bodily Injury, or Official Oppression. I would not think that either charge is likely.

6 thoughts on “Prickett: “Whenever, Man,” And Then The Beatdown

  1. Scott Jacobs

    I’m reminded of the recent 5th Circuit decision of Rich v. Palko. I think the second paragraph of III B, specifically footnotes 12 and 16, would lend themselves to a denial of qualified immunity for the officers here.

      1. Scott Jacobs

        Oh, I doubt it’s actually only a few things, sir.

        For starters, neither of your kids have provided you with grandchildren yet, so that’s two things right there.

    1. Gregory Prickett

      I’m not talking about qualified immunity. I’m talking about the problems with a department that doesn’t recognize that it has a use of force problem with its officers, and that didn’t foresee the reaction of releasing the video to the public. I’m talking about the fact that the officers charged Crawford with a bogus charge, for a scratch.

      QI wasn’t even on my mind when writing this article.

      1. Scott Jacobs

        Oh, I’m not criticising, and I agree that department clearly has a problem.

        I’m just saying I’m looking forward to the rare 5th circuit case where the cops might actually be held accountable*.

        *I don’t think they’ll actually be held accountable.

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