An investigation is underway after a Black family from Ennis filed a complaint against an officer they say mistreated them during a traffic stop and subsequent arrests Saturday.
According to a statement from the Ennis Police Department, Chief of Police Dustin Munn, who began his tenure on June 9, said an officer pulled over a driver for speeding (55 mph in a 35 mph zone) and that the driver stopped in a residential driveway.
Munn said a passenger exited the vehicle parked in the driveway and when told by the officer to return to the vehicle that person refused. The department said, "the situation escalated quickly as individuals began to congregate around the officer and vehicle."
Ennis police didn't elaborate on what happened next and only said, "it is clear there were opportunities for the Ennis Police Department to better handle the dynamic situation."
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"The actions of Ennis Police Department personnel were deficient in the context of interacting with community members in a proactive and positive way," Munn said in a statement. "As the new Chief, I can assure you, we will be a police force that treats everyone with respect and dignity regardless of circumstance. There were several opportunities to better handle this situation."
Four people were arrested after being accused of interference with a police officer, with one person also being arrested and accused of resisting arrest.
Munn added there would be a third-party investigation and review conducted by the Ellis County Sheriff's Office and the professional standards division in conjunction with the Texas Rangers into the incident and said the officer who initiated the traffic stop has been reassigned to administrative duty pending the results of the investigation.
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The family, meanwhile, filed an official complaint against the officer on Tuesday, the same day the police department released their statement.
According to the Next Generation Action Network, a local civil rights organization that held a press conference with the family Tuesday, the Ennis police statement is misleading.
Dominque Alexander, NGAN president, said the family reached out to his organization after the arrests and said the driver of the vehicle pulled into the driveway of her home unaware that she was being stopped by the officer.
"This young lady didn't realize until she got out of the vehicle that this officer was actually trying to stop her," Alexander said. "(The statement) wants us to believe that this person just randomly got out of their vehicle and disobeyed an officer's instruction in a normal traffic violation … That is not the situation that happened."
Alexander went on to say that the officer "escalated the situation" and "disrespected individuals in an erratic behavior."
In a Facebook video of the incident that received over 19,000 views as of Tuesday night, a family member, Kevin Beasley recorded parts of the incident on his cell phone, including some of the interactions with the officer the family complained about. Beasley can be heard in the video telling police the family was gathering to mourn the death of an aunt, which Alexander also said in the press conference.
"The purpose of the investigation is to determine the facts, determine if Ennis Police Department policies and general orders were followed, and make recommendations as to how we might better respond in the future," Munn said.
Munn also called for the community to "help de-escalate the situation" and acknowledged that the department has "significant work ahead to thoughtfully engage our residents."