Updated Friday, May 26, 2017, 4:41 p.m. EDT:
The City of Commerce is doubling down on its suggestion that Commerce Police Chief Kerry Crews was not the man who referred to Carmen Ponder as a “black bitch,” though still not denying that Crews was present as one of his police officers physically assaulted her and ultimately arrested her for refusing to be subjugated by Crews.
Why Crews and the responding police officers would expect Ponder to apologize to Crews after she was followed and verbally attacked by a white man remains unclear.
Ponder released the following statement to The Root via her attorneys:
Carmen S. Ponder was verbally assaulted and harassed by a motorist in a Wal-Mart parking lot located in Commerce, Texas. The motorist was upset that Ms. Ponder passed his vehicle which was being operated by his fourteen year old daughter. When Ms. Ponder refused to apologize to the motorist, or acknowledge his verbal tirade beyond stating “it’s illegal” to allow a fourteen year old to operate a motor vehicle on a public highway, the motorist became even more upset and began directing racial slurs at Ms. Ponder. Without engaging her assailant any further, Ms. Ponder entered the Wal-Mart facility.
At the time she was accosted Ms. Ponder did not know who the man was that was attacking her. However, upon exiting the Wal-Mart, Ms. Ponder was approached by a plain clothes officer that flashed a badge and pointed to a man standing nearby stating “that is my chief and you’d better go apologize to him!”
Ms. Ponder understood the demand to mean that the man that had verbally attacked her in the parking lot earlier was Chief of Police Kerry Crews who then demanded an apology. Ms. Ponder did not understand the statement from the plain clothes officer to be a lawful command or any form of arrest or detention. She was not willing to apologize and attempted to continue to her vehicle when she was grabbed by the officer and pulled back toward the Wal-Mart entrance with enough force to cause bruising to her arms. Ms. Ponder immediately called 9-1-1 using her cell phone. When a uniformed officer arrived, he took a statement from the plain clothes officer and promptly placed Ms. Ponder in handcuffs. She was placed in the back of a police vehicle and taken to the local jail where she was later informed she was being charged with evading arrest or detention and held overnight.
Since the incident, the City of Commerce has issued a statement that Chief Crews was not the motorist that verbally assaulted Ms. Ponder. In a press release, the City suggested instead that Chief Crews became involved in the incident after being approached by one of the parties. Media sources have suggested the motorist was in fact Michael Beane, a school board member for the City. While Ms. Ponder acknowledges that it is possible that Crews was not the man from the initial verbal assault, the actions of Commerce Police Department in responding to the incident represent clear abuse of authority and violations of Ms. Ponder’s civil rights.
Commerce PD officers immediately sided with the white motorist that referred to Ms. Ponder as a “black bitch” and used the authority entrusted to their office to further the intimidation and harassment begun by the errant motorist. When Ms. Ponder declined to submit to the demeaning command that she apologize to her assailant, Ms. Ponder was brutalized and arrested by members of the Commerce Police Department and assigned a fraudulent criminal charge. The City has acknowledged that this took place in the presence and under the supervision of Police Chief Kerry Crews.
On behalf of Ms. Ponder we renew our demand that the false charges against her be dropped immediately and that after a full, thorough and impartial investigation the officers and/or city officials involved be appropriately punished.
Ponder’s attorney Lee Merritt posted the following on his Facebook page, pointing out that Crews possibly calling Ponder a “black bitch” is heinous enough, but Crews standing by as his officers assaulted her—and ultimately unlawfully arrested her—points to the white supremacist state violence that victimizing black people on a daily basis—specifically, the violent intersection of state violence and misgynoir.
As previously reported by The Root, Crews has been placed on administrative duty while an outside organization hired by the city investigates claims that he called Carmen Ponder a “black bitch” and had her arrested.
Calls to the Commerce Independent School District have not been returned.
Updated Thursday, May 25, 2017, 9:41 p.m. EDT:
The City of Commerce released the following statement, claiming that Ponder’s statements do not align with those of Chief Crews and the responding officer.
Read the statement below:
Updated Thursday, May 25, 2017, 4:50 p.m. EDT: Commerce, Texas, Police Chief Kerry Crews has been placed on administrative duty while an outside organization hired by the city investigates claims that he called Carmen Ponder a “black bitch” and had her arrested following a road rage incident—one that he allegedly instigated, NBC-DFW reports.
Carmen S. Ponder, Miss Black Texas U.S. Ambassador 2016 and an intern with the Hunt County, Texas, District Attorney’s Office, is fighting for police accountability and justice after Commerce, Texas, Police Chief Kerry Crews reportedly called her a “black bitch” and then forced her to spend a night in jail.
The incident, which took place May 20, began when Ponder found herself traveling behind a dangerous driver. Acting as any responsible driver would, Ponder signaled, maneuvered around the driver and continued traveling to her destination.
The driver—who had abruptly stopped several times, drifted in and out of lanes, and accelerated suddenly with no provocation, according to Ponder’s attorney, Lee Merritt—turned out to be Crews’ 14-year-old daughter.
Merritt explained what happened next in a Facebook post:
Carmen politely signaled and went around the sporadic driver. She found a parking space, gathered her belongings and prepared to make a quick run into Walmart but she was stopped. The same car found her in the parking lot and began berating her with profanity demanding to know why she maneuvered past the vehicle. The psychopath accosting her was police Chief Crews, who was (illegally) giving his 14 y/o driving lessons. Ever dignified and composed, Carmen ignored the tirade and continued into the store. Not use to being ignored, Crews continued “Whatever you Black Bitch!”
“You black bitch.”
Meet Chief Crews:
Carmen went into Walmart, purchased her item and began to return to her car. Crews had called for back up. A plain clothes unidentified officer wielding a badge informed her highness that the man she had pissed off was the chief of police and she had better apologize! She declined and continued graciously toward her vehicle. The cop grabbed her and shouted you’re not going anywhere, you’re being detained. Carmen complied and used her cell phone to call the police. When they arrived (of course) they spoke with the other officers and was told Carmen was evading arrest (no idea for what) and she was handcuffed and taken into custody. Miss Black Texas spent the night in jail. Her only crime ... the color of her skin.
Ponder was verbally and physically assaulted, and ultimately arrested, because a racist white man with a superiority complex, fragile masculinity and a badge decided to show her how little black women matter to him and his department.
How dare Ponder not cower before him?
How dare she not apologize and show him deference?
How dare she embarrass him—by doing none of the above—in front of his white daughter, who is already being taught that white men can do whatever they want, that she is above the law and that black women are supposed to do what they’re told?
This is just the latest example of why black women’s relationship with the state, and the many ways in which state violence specifically harms black women, are front and center in the Movement for Black Lives.
Merritt is also the attorney for Jacqueline Craig—who was assaulted by Fort Worth, Texas, Police Officer William Martin after she called police seeking help after a neighbor attacked her son—and for the family of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, who was killed by Balch Springs, Texas, Police Officer Roy Oliver.
In a statement to The Root, Merritt said that justice is a must in this case. His office is demanding Crews’ resignation and filing criminal charges against him and the attending officers for assault, wrongful arrest and official corruption.
“Unfortunately, as an official representative of ‘Black Texas,’ Carmen’s story embodies the black experience with law enforcement,” Merritt said. “It is our responsibility to address this reality with sobriety and commitment. We demand justice in this case and will seek it from every possible angle.”
The Root reached out to the Commerce Police Department, which declined to issue a comment.