A video that captured an encounter between a Houston-area college student and a constable has now gone viral and has resulted in an internal-affairs complaint being filed against the deputy, alleging harassment, constitutional violations, excessive force and abuse of power.
Lee Merritt, the Philadelphia-based attorney representing 20-year-old Marlin Gipson; his 22-year-old brother, Marcus Gipson; and 21-year-old Devontae Williams, said in a written statement that the three young men were out mowing lawns and promoting their yard-care business, D&M Lawn Services, in their own neighborhood when they were approached by Deputy Shane Cates of the Harris County Constable Precinct 1.
As soon as Cates approached, Marlin Gipson began filming using his cellphone.
In the video, which Merritt has shared on his personal Facebook page, Cates can be heard admonishing Gipson for not coming to him when he called him. Gipson tells him that he was busy mowing lawns. Cates replies that when he drove up, he saw Gipson going door-to-door, and Gipson explains that he was handing out his business cards to drum up more business. He then shows the card on camera.
When Cates asks Marlin Gipson for his ID, Gipson informs him he doesn’t have it. Cates asks him for his name and date of birth, and Gipson gives him the information, then asks what this information is being taken down for.
“Because I’m investigating what you’re doing,” Cates replies.
“What do you mean, ‘investigating’?” Gipson asks.
“Whenever an officer asks you for your ID, you’re supposed to provide your ID,” Cates says.
“I’m working,” Gipson responds.
“I don’t care what you are doing,” Cates says.
Gipson then asks Cates if he will provide his card or write his name and officer information down.
In response, Cates removes his handcuffs from his belt and says, “I’ll tell you what. Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”
Gipson refuses and heads back to his own home.
According to Merritt’s statement, a neighbor came forward and tried to tell the officer that the young men were working at her home by her request. The deputy initially attempted to follow Gipson, but then returned to the original scene where Marcus Gipson and Williams were still working and, with the help of additional officers who arrived at the scene, produced his Taser and arrested the two young men.
Merritt said that the arrest of Marcus Gipson and Williams involved both racial slurs and unnecessary physical force.
After arresting Marcus Gipson and Williams, the officers traveled to Marlin Gipson’s home and demanded that he come outside. This, too, was caught on video.
“When he refused the officers entered the home and placed all the occupants in handcuffs including minor children,” Merritt wrote. “They kicked in the bedroom door where Mr. Gipson could be found. Mr. Gipson immediately surrendered with his hands up and followed the instructions of the arresting officer to turn around with his back to the officer. When he did, the officer fired a Taser gun into the back of Mr. Gipson and commanded the K-9 unit that had entered the home to attack. Mr. Gipson was bitten several times about the upper right arm and shoulders when the officer fired a second Taser round into his back. He was then placed in handcuffs and the arresting officer stomped on his back twice while shouting for him to be quiet.”
Marlin Gipson was subsequently taken into custody and charged with evading arrest and/or detention, and failure to identify.
Merritt said that the arrest of the young men “represents clear constitutional violations, excessive force and abuse of power.”
His office is investigating the incident in preparation for a civil rights lawsuit against the department and the officers involved.
Gipson told ABC13, “”This exact officer sits at the corner of my street every day, so he sees me every day. So, when I seen him, I already knew it was some BS.”
Both brothers have filed internal-affairs complaints with Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen’s office.
Rosen’s office denies allegations that the young men were mistreated, and immediately began the character assassination that is the norm in these cases, alleging that Marlin Gipson had an outstanding warrant and gave a false name when he was asked by the deputy.
“What I have seen from Mr. Gipson so far is falsehoods, untruths; he has not been truthful about anything,” Rosen told ABC13.
The false-name statement is refuted by the video, and in response to the allegations that Gipson had a warrant, Merritt said the following in a message to The Root:
#MarlinGipson got into a fight in HS (2015) [this is the only incident we can imagine the #Pct1Constable claim is referring to) No system you run his name through produces a warrant. Several traffic stops & police encounters over almost 3 years failed to turn up any warrant. If a warrant exist it was unknown and unknowable to him. Our own repeated docket searches have produced nothing. Despite the, now routine, smear campaign, #MarlinGipson HAS NO CRIMINAL RECORD. He has never been convicted of any crime whatsoever! He is a college student entering this third semester majoring in Business Accounting. He’s been working two jobs this summer to pay for school and provide for his family. These are the facts.
Rosen further defended his department against allegations of racial harassment and discrimination Wednesday afternoon by bringing out at least half a dozen deputies involved in the arrest of Gipson, according to ABC13.
“We have one of the most diverse offices in Harris County. It really incenses me that somebody says they were targeted because of their race. I love our minority community; I work hard to gain trust of our minority community,” Rosen said.
Rosen told ABC13 that the entire incident was also captured by dash camera and body camera. He said he has reviewed the footage and does not believe his officers did anything wrong.
While he has not yet turned over the internal-affairs investigation to the Texas Rangers, he said that he is willing to do so at the Gipson family’s request.
Read more at ABC13.