By Sheryl Estrada
Prairie View Councilman Jonathan Miller.
UPDATE:Jan. 25, 2016
A grand jury has indicted Prairie View officer Michael Kelley after he used a stun gun on a City Council member Jonathan Miller.
Following the incident, which occurred in October, Miller was charged with resisting arrest and interference with public duties. The grand jury declined to indict Miller on the interference charge and prosecutors dropped the resisting arrest charge.
Sandra Bland was arrested in Prairie View, Texas, on July 10 during a traffic stop, which resulted in her dying in a jail cell three days later. On Oct. 8, newly elected Prairie View Councilman Jonathan Miller was stunned with a Taser while on his knees and subsequently arrestedoutside of his home by police from the same department.
Prairie View Mayor Frank Jackson was scheduled to hold a special council meeting with Chief of Police Larry Johnson on Thursday to discuss the incident, but it was “abruptly” canceled.
Miller, 26, and his fraternity brothers of Omega Psi Phi returned to his home after completing a community service project earlier in the day. His three friends were outside of his house after practicing a step dance routine for a homecoming show at Prairie View A&M University, his alma mater.
According to the Prairie View Police, two officers, Officer Pennie Goodie, a Black female, and Officer Michael Kelley, a white male, approached the men andquestioned them about recent disturbances and suspicious activity in thearea.
Goodie was also the backup for Trooper Brian Encinia during Bland’s traffic stop in July where dash cam footage showed excessive force in her arrest.
The police department released Goodie’s body cam of the incident with Miller.
“There’s been drug activity, little girls and little guys in the car doing whatever, so when we see this, we come investigate,” Officer Goodie said on the tape to Miller’s friends.
Miller saw the two officers approach and came outside.
“I knew the officer, [and] she knew me, so I figured if I let her know these are my guests, [it would] kind of lessen the tension,” Miller said in an interview.
He asked the officers why they were questioning his friends.
“I’m not trying to be combinative or anything,” Miller said.
Goodie responded that she also wasn’t trying to be combative. One of Miller’s friends then informed Goodie that Miller is the city councilman, to which Goodie replied, “I know who he is.”
Officer Kelley then tells Miller to step away, saying, “This is a scene, come on.”
When Kelley reached for Miller, he said, “Officer, please do not put your hands on me.”
Kelley responded, “Go over there before you go to jail for interfering, go over there before you go to jail for interfering.”
Miller took a few steps back and the officer followed.
“Go back there to the end, man,” Kelley continued “You always starting problems, so go back over there.”
“I live here,” Miller answered.
“I’m gonna tell you one more time to go back over there and get out of this scene before you go to jail for interfering,” Kelley said.
The officers then yelled, “Put your hands behind your back. Quit resisting and put your hands behind your back.”
Goodie then says, “OK, he’s gonna have to Taser you, you’re not doing like you’re supposed to.”
The police department said in a statement that Miller came forward and “interrupted the investigation.”
“It went from me asking questions to me basically being put facedown on the ground,” Miller saidin an interview with KHOU. He said he did nothing wrong.
Miller was charged with resisting arrest and interfering with public duties. He spent a night in Waller County Jail, which is the same jail where Bland was found dead. Miller was released the next morning without bail.
“I just hope from this something is learned, not only in Prairie View but in some other cities where things like this have happened,” Miller said. “These officers really need to understand that we’re people.”
Prairie View, Texas, is a predominantly Black college town; all but one of its staff of six police officers are Black. The city council, the mayor and the police chief are Black. But was this a case of racial profiling
According to reports from FBI data, racial profiling by police departments is a reality. Blacks are more likely than others to be arrested in almost every city for almost every type of crime. Nationwide, Black people are arrested at higher rates for not only crimes as serious as murder and assault but also as minor as loitering and marijuana possession.
A USA Today analysis of data found more than 1,500 police departments arrest Blacks at higher rates than whites. These departments range from those in major cities, like Chicago and San Francisco, to suburban towns on the outskirts of cities like Detroit and New York.
Apparently, racial bias in arrests is embedded in the police departments around the country regardless of the department’s predominant race. Investigative reports have also found that unarmed Black people are twice as likely to be killed by police than white people.
An investigation into police use of a Taser on Miller and his subsequent arrest has been turned over to the district attorney.