As you probably know, Amanda Jo Stephen was grabbed and handcuffed by Austin police. An eyewitness claimed that she didn’t hear the officer tell her to stop, and then she reacted, as any startled young woman would, when the cop surprised her by grabbing her. The situation got worse from there.
Police Chief Art Acevedo defends the police department by making allegations that put Stephen’s behavior in a new light.
Acevedo says Stephen did the same thing while officers had another person stopped for jaywalking.
“He can see her face, and she can see his face, yells, ‘Austin Police, I need you to stop.’ She still doesn’t stop, so he grabs her arm and says, ‘I need you to stop.’ She then at some point takes off her ear buds and he says, ‘Austin Police, I need you to stop,’ and she says to the effect, ‘I don’t give an “f” who you are. Get your “f’ing” hands off of me,” Acevedo said.
According to police, Stephen was arrested for failure to obey a pedestrian control device and failure to identify. Failure to identify is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas.
So who is telling the truth? It will probably need to go to court to be hashed out, with each side calling on witnesses or showing footage, etc. (I still don’t know if “failure to identify” means she refused or that she didn’t take identification with her on her run.)
If it does go to court, one issue will be Stephen’s reasonable expectation. Did she have reason to be be afraid—so that perhaps fear provoke a “fight or flight” response?
What should go through a reasonable woman’s mind when she is grabbed and cuffed by police?
Police Chief Art Acevado provides, I think, some evidence that a lawyer will probably want to use to defend Stephen.
Acevedo calls the national attention petty.
“I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas. And I stand here proud as a police chief, saying that I’m proud that this is the controversy that I’m dealing with today, on the day that we’re actually convicting somebody of capital murder. And I’m glad that I’m here having to address mediocrity,” said Acevedo.
Actually, this quotation seems to have been edited to avoid getting Acevedo in trouble. According to the New York Post, he actually said, “Cops are actually committing sexual assaults on duty so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Tex…” He later apologized for the statement.
I’m not sure if Acevado has in mind women who get raped by police when they call them for help or the intrusive probes that police have done illegally at traffic stops.
But if this young woman has any reasonable claim to believe that cops engage in this sort of behavior, then I think it is going to be that much easier for her to win over a jury.