A video of the controversial arrest in November 2016 of a young black man at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth shows a police officer now under indictment hitting the victim in the face before putting him in a headlock and taking him down.
Henry Newson's arrest Nov. 5, 2016, by off-duty officer Jon Preston Romer, 38, sparked a criminal investigation and a lawsuit by Newson. It also has black leaders calling for Romer's firing — a year after they slammed Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald over his handling of a different officer who arrested a black woman and her two daughters in December 2016 in a video that went viral. Both officers are white.
The video released Thursday shows a then-20-year-old Newson being hit in the face by Romer, who was indicted last week on charges of official oppression, aggravated perjury and making a false report to a police officer in connection with the incident. Romer was working security at the hospital at the time of the incident.
Newson, who according to his lawsuit had just spent two days in the hospital for an illness and was waiting for a ride home, was charged with resisting arrest and criminal trespass, but those were dismissed in March 2017 at prosecutorial discretion.
The video shows Romer putting Newson in a headlock and taking him to the ground. Then Romer and two other men named in the lawsuit as hospital security guards Jeremy Flores and Jonathan Walterbach appear to pile on top of Newson and punch, kick and handcuff him.
Kenneth East, the attorney representing Romer in the lawsuit, has declined to comment. Matthew Bobo, the lawyer representing Newson, did not return messages seeking comment. An official with Texas Health Resources, which was also named in the lawsuit, has declined to comment. It wasn't clear if Flores or Walterbach had attorneys.
Romer was arrested last week and later posted bail, and police say he has been placed on restricted duty. But Michael Bell, pastor of Greater St. Stephen First Church and spokesman for the Tarrant County Local Organizing Committee, asked during a news conference last week why Romer — who Bell noted fatally shot a black man during a traffic stop in front of three of his children in 2011 — has not been fired.
"Why was a police officer who has used deathly force been allowed to remain on the streets until the day of his indictment?" Bell said. "Who made the decision to not hold Romer accountable for his actions once they were uncovered?"
The victim in the 2011 shooting death was 32-year-old handicapped father Charal "Ra Ra" Thomas. Thomas did not follow police orders to exit his vehicle and drove off with Romer's arm trapped in a window. Thomas continued to drive, dragging Romer along until Romer pulled himself onto a running board and fatally shot him in front of three of Thomas' children. That death became a source of friction between police and the black community.