HOUSTON – Ask any Black male in America, young or old, and they would more than likely tell you that they are in no way surprised by this incident. In fact, Black women and girls are not excluded.
In this country, a Black person can’t seem to even be able to play loud music, drive a vehicle, knock on a door for help, wear a hoodie, walk across the street, shop in a major store, buy a sub sandwich, seek out an officer for help, reach for a license when pulled over, or cross a major highway, without being harassed, dehumanized, tasered, beaten, strangled, stripped of their rights or outright killed by officers in this country.
This is not merely police brutality, these are acts of domestic terrorism on U.S. soil.
Many would say this has been the modus operandi of dirty cops, dating back to the days of slavery when the officers of that day were assigned to hunt down runaway slaves. Much hasn’t changed and it seems to be getting worse by the day. It’s not only in Ferguson, Missouri, but also in the backyard of every city.
Just ask former Houston City Councilman Jarvis Johnson, who was allegedly held at gunpoint, handcuffed, slapped, detained and robbed by a White Precinct 1 Deputy Constable John Brown and at least one other Houston Police Department officer during a Sept. 13 traffic stop.
During a press conference outside the constable’s downtown office, Johnson, local activists and supporters called for a thorough and just investigation. He also challenged the narrative from the deputy constable who claims his dash cam was inoperable that night and does not have the encounter recorded.
Johnson, who owns Aunt Bea’s Restaurant located off I-45 North Freeway at Tidwell, told reporters he was leaving his business a little after 10:00pm that night when he noticed the constable turning on his flashing lights signaling for him to pull over.
He said he was in the far left lane on North Shepherd and had two options: 1) Pull over to the right where there were mostly unlit abandoned buildings or 2) Make a U-turn into the nearby Gulf Station, that’s well lit. He chose the latter because he felt it’s never safe to be pulled over in dark areas.
Strangely, the convenience store surveillance video, which has been posted on YouTube, shows Deputy Brown aggressively approaching Johnson’s black SUV with his gun already drawn. Johnson also claims he was addressed with multiple expletives.
“I hadn’t done anything to pose a threat to him, so why did he have his gun drawn?,” Johnson told African-AmericanNews&Issues in a recent phone interview. “What justified him pulling his gun on me? Can Deputy Brown justify pulling his gun on me? Does an alleged speeding violation justify such actions? Was I a threat because I was a Black man? Was this officer on the prowl that night?”
To make matters worse: Johnson said another officer who had arrived on the scene, slapped him before he was handcuffed and detained. Multiple HPD cars bombarding the scene can also be seen in the video.
“The video, that I was so very fortunate to get from the store, only gave half the story. You don’t see me being slapped in the video. Although you do see the head of one of the officers in the video, you see him making a very jerking move out of the camera shot,” he noted.
“The officer said I evaded arrest, but no dash cam working? The officers out there kept telling me that the dash cam was broken. I don’t believe that to be true because if you’re out doing traffic stops, why would you do it without all of your equipment working? If you’re an officer on the streets, your equipment should be working and I believe that equipment was working. They don’t want to show the video from the dash cam because it will confirm everything that I have said,”Johnson noted.
After being released from Deputy Brown’s patrol car and ticketed, Johnson says he discovered that at least $2,500 of $4,700 he had in his vehicle was now missing. The cash was from the day’s sales at Aunt Bea’s Restaurant. “I asked Deputy Brown where is my money and he said, “Dude, nobody took your money.” I’m tired of officers using their subjective laws to justify what they do. What probable cause did the officer have to search my car?”
“I don’t want people to focus on the money. That’s not the major issue with me. The major issue is–based upon the pattern around the country among cops right now–I could’ve lost my life. The major issue is this officer pulled his gun on me and has yet to justify why. It’s bigger than money. It’s about pointing out the unjust behavior of officers,” he told African-American News&Issues.
The incident wasn’t over that night.
Johnson said Deputy Brown then engaged in what he believes were tactics intending on intimidating him and the store owner. “If you look at the video in its entirety, after I went to get gas and got my receipt, Deputy Brown went into the store and said something to the owner. I went back into the store and Deputy Brown followed me back into the store. Then when I went back in the store a third time, you can see in the video Deputy Brown and his colleague looking very intently through the window at me. Was Deputy Brown trying to intimidate me? Was he trying to instigate a situation?”
Johnson said he never identified himself as being a former councilmember because, “One thing I never do is ask for a different treatment than any other citizen of the city of Houston. Being a former city councilman should not give me the right to be exonerated from the same treatment as any other citizen. But no citizen in this city should be treated in the manner that I was treated for allegedly speeding. Once he (Deputy Brown) got to my car, the gun was already drawn and pointed at me; never saying why that gun was pointed at me. No citizen should have to go through what I went through.”
“I was told that he (Deputy Brown) called for backup before he got out of the car,” Johnson told African-American News&Issues. “So does that mean he feared it was going to be an issue he would initiate or that he knew he was going to do something that justified back up? What kind of justification was he looking for that night to shoot me down? Is this the type of action the Precinct 1 Constable’s office condones? Do they condone robbing somebody?”
Johnson says he has yet to file a complaint with HPD Internal Affairs; however, he has filed one with the precinct. He says he has yet to hear directly from Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen or his office.
“It’s still under investigation. We do have his (Jarvis Johnson’s) complaint. And we’re still awaiting some pressing things from him in order for us to complete our investigation. I am not at liberty to tell you what those things are, but he knows what we are waiting for. I also believe HPD is awaiting for him to contact them as well,” J.C. Mosier, a spokesman for the constable’s office, told African-American News&Issues.
Mosier said once they receive the requested information from Johnson he believes concluding the investigation won’t take long. He also stated that he believes Deputy Brown is still on duty.
“If they are serious about cleaning up these police departments, they have to bring swift justice to victims. They have to send a clear, firm message to cops who do such things, that it’s not tolerated. Otherwise, their silence clearly shows us they condone such actions and will continue to allow officers to do as they please to those they claim to protect and serve,” Johnson opined.
NOT LOSING SIGHT OF THE BIGGER PICTURE
Right now the world is focusing its attention on Ferguson and St. Louis, as youth-led acts of civil disobedience are sweeping the area due to the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Thousands went to the area to participate in a weekend of resistance under the theme of ‘Ferguson October’ on October 10-13.
Within the past few years, other movements for justice have been sparked by the killings of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Vonderrit Myers, Jr., John Crawford, Alesia Thomas, and the list goes on and on.
Deric Muhammad, noted activist, emphasized in an interview with Fox 26 news the need for all officers in Harris County to wear body cameras because it would “take the guesswork out of what happened. It takes the guesswork out of who stole the money, who slapped him in the face.”
While standing alongside Johnson at the press conference, Muhammad said, “This is about Jarvis Johnson, but it’s really bigger than Jarvis Johnson,” The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said. “No single individual can rise above the condition of his or her people.” If something like this can happen to a former councilman, a high profile Black man in the city of Houston, then it can happen to any of us.”
“We’re here to support him. But we’re really here to highlight what goes on every single day in the city of Houston where these rogue cops are earning their stripes after dark. We’re praying for those victims who are victimized by this kind of thing every single day,” said Muhammad.
“The song that comes to mind that says, “Don’t push me because I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head. If these kind of things keep happening, and there are no repercussions to officers like John Brown—just like they’re losing their head in Ferguson and St. Louis—we’re going to lose our heads right here in Houston too. That is what is coming if things don’t change.”