BLACK VOICES

Charges Dropped Against Miss Black Texas Winner Arrested In Walmart Parking Lot

Carmen Ponder alleged last month that she was unlawfully arrested in a fit of racially charged road rage.

Charges were dropped against a Miss Black Texas winner who alleged her arrest last month in a North Texas Walmart parking lot was racially motivated.

A Hunt County district attorney announced earlier this week that an evading arrest charge against Carmen Ponder had been dropped due to lack of evidence.

“Of course, we believe those criminal charges to be baseless in the first place,” Lee Merritt, Ponder’s civil rights attorney, said during a press conference Wednesday. “There was no lawful reason for her arrest ... There was no crime committed besides the crime of the unlawful arrest of Ms. Ponder.”

Ponder, 23, alleged last month that a driver had followed her into a Walmart parking lot, shouted at her and called her a “black bitch” in a fit of road rage.

She first identified Kerry Crews, the police chief of Commerce, Texas, as the driver who allegedly harassed her, but later said she believed he was one of the men who intervened after the initial encounter.

Crews was not in uniform at the time of the incident. Video released this week shows him approaching Ponder and attempting to detain her as she exits the Walmart. Ponder then calls 911 for help. One of the men can be heard saying, “No, we are the police, ma’am.”

When on-duty officers arrived on the scene, Crews directed them to arrest Ponder, who said she had refused to apologize to the motorist who had harassed and berated her. 

The city hired an attorney to conduct an independent investigation, which found there was no racial bias involved in the arrest. The investigation cleared Crews of any wrongdoing, though he remains on administrative leave, a spokesman for the Commerce Police Department told HuffPost.

Merritt and local media reports have since identified the driver as elected official Michael Beane, a Commerce Independent School Board trustee.

In a statement to HuffPost, Commerce ISD Board President Kathleen Hooten confirmed Beane’s involvement in the incident, but said the school board did not have the ability to remove an elected member.

“In the next board meeting, the Commerce ISD school board will look into the released information and discuss possible directions,” Hooten wrote. “A removal from office will not be a possible action.”

Beane did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Merritt, Ponder’s attorney, tweeted Tuesday that “demands for justice remain.” Merritt and his client continued to call for Crews’ termination and reportedly plan to file a civil rights lawsuit.

HuffPost

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