The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department defended itself Friday after a pro football player and Richmond resident accused one of its deputies of harassment.
Sheriff Troy Nehls spoke at a press conference on Friday a day after Houston-based attorney Jennien Hovell-Cox claimed her client, New England Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts, was harassed and called a “big black man” by deputy Adam Watkins in a traffic stop on March 10.
Nehls said that he didn’t think the situation was not racially motivated, while Capt. Steve Holtz, who handles the patrol deputies, said the deputy had only four months experience with the FBCSO and was “nervous” during the stop.
Nehls apologized to Roberts and Holtz said that the deputy was verbally reprimanded for his actions and has undergone more training.
But at the same time, Nehls did defend the deputy’s description of Roberts and the sheriff attacked a video by USA Today that was edited to prevent the viewer from hearing the interaction between Roberts and the deputy.
The dash cam footage of the traffic stop was released to select media on Thursday by Hovell-Cox, while the Sheriff’s Office posted the footage on YouTube on Friday.
Watkins followed Roberts driving in his black 2018 Porsche after driving on Pitts Road in Richmond, following him for a mile without turning on his siren and lights, according to Hovell-Cox.
Roberts, 25, then drove to his house in Pecan Grove, where Watkins turned on his lights in the driveway.
Roberts opened the door and got out of the car, but the deputy told him to stay in the vehicle.
“Get back in the car right now,” Watkins said. “Shut the door, put the hands on the steering wheel and roll down the window. Do it now!”
Then Roberts’ then-fiancé came outside the house, but Watkins told her to get back in the house. “If you don’t get back in the house, you will be arrested,” Watkins said.
The deputy then called for backup, saying on the radio, “The big black man got out of the car, I told him to get back in and he wouldn’t comply.”
Nine minutes went by before other deputies arrived at the scene. Roberts was told he was driving 59 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone. He was given a ticket with no incident.
But days later, Nehls met with Roberts and the ticket was turned into a warning, and FBCSO’s internal affairs division said that the complaint by Roberts was “not sustained” to close the matter.
“Unfortunately, these types of things are happening all too often to African Americans,” Roberts said in a statement to USA Today. “People are becoming desensitized to them. Being harassed in your own yard simply because you are a ‘big black man’ should never become the norm. To the person being harassed, it is frightening, disrespectful and embarrassing.
“I have no interest in any financial gain from releasing this story. My only hope is that these types of bias-based traffic stops can end and that, perhaps, other black drivers might see how to deescalate a threatening situation.”
Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton said to a Boston TV station that if Roberts files a criminal complaint, it will be referred to the Texas Rangers for an independent investigation.