Questions remain after ugly police encounter

Attorney Kim Cole and Latasha Nelson met with Arlington police Chief Will Johnson on Friday.
Attorney Kim Cole and Latasha Nelson met with Arlington police Chief Will Johnson on Friday. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

North Texans know well how cellphone footage of a police encounter can reveal the ugliness of an arrest.

While such footage can be damning for law enforcement, it is one part of the arrest.

On Monday, Arlington residents got another version of the July 3 arrests of two teenage brothers from a search warrant affidavit released by the Arlington Police Department.

The affidavit fills in some of the holes of what the video showed to be a troubling encounter, but it still leaves some important issues unaddressed, like was it necessary to arrest a second teenager for alleged interference?

Latasha Nelson’s 14-year-old son was escorted to a police cruiser by Officer Chad Haning after being accused of breaking into a car at the Addison Park Apartments and trying to steal the radio earlier this month.

Nothing about the young man’s arrest appears problematic.

While local activist Dominique Alexander claims the officer was racially profiling (the teenager is black), at this point there is nothing to validate such a claim.

According to Randall Moore, Haning’s attorney, the teenager was identified by a witness at the scene before being handcuffed.

Indeed, the police affidavit explains that the arrested youth matched the “exact” description of the suspect.

But things went awry as the officers took Nelson’s son to the vehicle, and the officer refused to tell Nelson where he was taking her son. According to the affidavit, Nelson’s 16-year-old son began approaching the officer “in an aggressive manner,” then “bumped him in his midsection and began to press his body on him.”

That is not evident in the video. By its end the teenager is on the ground in handcuffs for interfering with the investigation. Nelson’s phone was seized as evidence.

Arlington police must explain why the situation escalated as it did, and why a second teenager was arrested.

The affidavit states that Nelson agreed to have the video taken off her phone but then “retracted consent.” Nelson claims police pressured her to surrender the video in exchange for dropping charges against her son.

The versions of the arrests and the aftermath remain at odds. But the onus is on the Arlington PD to be transparent and forthcoming with the public as it works to earn the trust of those it works with and for.