Officials in Austin, Texas, are investigating the violent arrest last year of a black elementary school teacher who was slammed to the ground twice during a traffic stop, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
Also under investigation are comments apparently made by an officer who can be heard on video telling the teacher, Breaion King, that black people have "violent tendencies."
The incident unfolded in June 2015. Video obtained by the American-Statesman shows how quickly the traffic stop escalated.
A police cruiser pulled up next to King's car as she was exiting the vehicle. A police officer, Bryan Richter, can be heard ordering the 26-year-old to get back in her car and close her car door.
Richter accused King of only having stopped her car to park because she realized that he was after her.
"You were about to go inside without a wallet, so I know you were only coming over here because you knew I was going to pull you over," Richter says. "I can absolutely stop you if you’ve already parked, yes."
Richter asks King to put her feet back in the car so he can close the door. When King asks the officer to hurry up, that's when things seem to go awry.
Richter can be seen struggling with King in her car, attempting to drag her out of the vehicle.
"No, why are you touching me?" King can be heard screaming. "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!"
"Stop resisting!" Richter yells. "Get out of the car!"
Richter is seen dragging King out of the car and tossing her to the pavement once, screaming at her to put her hands behind her back. As he then wrestles her hands behind her back, he can be heard saying that he was "about to Tase" King.
King struggles to her feet, but Richter is seen on the video kicking her legs out from under her, before picking her up and slamming her to the ground again. He had finished handcuffing her as another officer arrives on the scene.
Richter wrote in a report of the incident that he acted because King demonstrated an "uncooperative attitude" and was "reaching for the front passenger side of the vehicle." He said that he did not know if she had a weapon and that King resisted by pulling away from him and wrapping her arms around the steering wheel.
King originally was charged with resisting arrest, but prosecutors dismissed the case after seeing the footage, the American-Statesman notes.
Separate footage details a conversation between King and another white officer, Patrick Spradlin, who says that blacks have "violent tendencies."
"Why are so many people afraid of black people?" Spradlin asks King.
“That’s what I want to figure out because I’m not a bad black person,” King says.
“I can give you a really good idea why it might be that way: violent tendencies," Spradlin says.
When King asks him if he thinks racism still exists, Spradlin responds, "Let me ask you this. Do you believe it goes both ways?"
“Ninety-nine percent of the time when you hear about stuff like that, it is the black community that is being violent," Spradlin continues. "That’s why a lot of the white people are afraid, and I don’t blame them. There are some guys I look at, and I know it is my job to deal with them, and I know it might go ugly, but that’s the way it goes. But yeah, some of them, because of their appearance and whatnot, some of them are very intimidating."
According to the American-Statesman, the Police Department disciplined Richter—with counseling and additional training—after supervisors looked into his use of force. However, internal affairs never formally investigated the incident. Spradlin was not disciplined for his comments because the department was unaware of his remarks until the newspaper began asking about them, the American-Statesman reports.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told the American-Statesman in an interview this week that the department has since opened an administrative review into how Richter's supervisors evaluated his conduct, as well as a separate criminal investigation. Spradlin's comments are also being investigated.
“After reviewing both videos, I and our leadership team were highly disturbed and disappointed in both the way Ms. King was approached and handled and in the mindset that we saw on display in those videos,” Acevedo said. “But there is another piece, which has caused concerns as to our review process and the systems we have in place.”
Acevedo expressed regret that he did not know about the situation sooner, but said that he would be taking steps to ensure that citizens learn how to respond when they feel that they have been mistreated by cops.
“We need to help our community overcome the fear or reluctance, which I understand, to file a complaint,” he said. “This is critical if we are to weed out bad officers and bad behavior.”
King, for her part, remains disturbed by her experience a year after the fact.
“I’ve become fearful to live my life,” she said. “I would rather stay home. I’ve become afraid of the people who are supposed to protect me and take care of me.”
Read more at the Austin American-Statesman.