Texas

Miss Black Texas sues city, former police chief over 2017 arrest that made national news

A woman whose arrest made national news in 2017 in Hunt County filed a lawsuit against the city of Commerce and its former police chief, who she says violated her civil rights.
A woman whose arrest made national news in 2017 in Hunt County filed a lawsuit against the city of Commerce and its former police chief, who she says violated her civil rights. Getty Images

A woman whose arrest made national news in 2017 in Hunt County filed a lawsuit against the city of Commerce and its former police chief, who she says violated her civil rights.

In May 2017, Carmen Ponder, who is also Miss Black Texas 2016, said former Commerce Police Chief Kerry Crews arrested her without reason on charges that were later dismissed. She and her attorney, Lee Merritt, filed the suit in Northern District of Texas-Dallas federal court Monday.

Crews, who resigned the month after Ponder’s arrest and became the assistant to the city manager shortly after, was not able to be reached for comment. He became the county’s Justice of Peace at Precinct 2 in January. City Manager Darrek Ferrell and the city’s attorney, Jay Garrett, said they could not comment on the suit and the mayor did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ponder said she was driving to Walmart when she passed an erratic driver on the road. When she parked at the Walmart, the driver, Michael Beane, started to yell at her and called her a “black b----.”

Beane was a Commerce ISD School Board Trustee at the time; he also resigned following the incident. He was not able to be reached for comment but said in a statement in June 2017 he did not believe he or Crews did anything wrong.

Ponder went inside Walmart to shop and when she came out, Crews was outside in plain clothes and showed her his badge.

“Crews flashed his badge at Ms. Ponder and aggressively demanded that she apologize to the man who accosted her earlier using racial slurs,” the suit says. “Ms. Ponder responded that she only wanted to return to her vehicle and go home.”

Ponder says Crews grabbed her with enough force to cause bruising and told her she was being arrested. Another officer handcuffed her and she was taken to jail for 24 hours before going before a judge and being released.

In an open letter in 2017, Crews said he became emotional because he was off-duty at the time and was “unprepared for the response” from Ponder, who he felt was disrespectful of his position as the police chief. According to his Twitter profile, Crews is still assistant to the city manager and serving as the city’s interim associate municipal judge.

Ponder was charged with evading arrest, but the charges were later dropped.

In the suit, Ponder says Crews subjected her to unlawful arrest and detention and the city failed to train its officers properly.

The Fort Worth-based law firm Lynn, Ross, and Gannaway was hired by the city of Commerce to conduct an outside investigation into the arrest and determined it was not racially motivated.

Fort Worth has a systemic problem of racism, protesters say, especially in the police department.

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