A beauty pageant winner is suing a Texas city and its former police chief for being wrongfully arrested after a road rage incident during which she was called a “black bitch,” according to a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Carmen Ponder, a 25-year-old Dallas woman who won the Miss Black Texas competition in 2016, alleged in a lawsuit filed Monday that the city of Commerce’s then-police chief, Kerry Crews, arrested her on a charge of evading arrest without cause after a confrontation with another driver who shouted obscenities and racial slurs at her, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Ponder, according to her lawsuit seeking more than $450,000 in damages, was driving to a Walmart in Commerce in May 2017 when she saw an “erratic” motorist whom she suspected to be a drunken driver.
A man later identified as Michael Beane, a trustee for the Commerce Independent School District, then got out of the car at the Walmart and began yelling profanities at Ponder, claiming he had been teaching his 14-year-old daughter how to drive at the time, the lawsuit alleges.
Ponder then said the man’s daughter was actually too young to be behind the wheel, prompting Beane to call her a “black bitch,” according to the suit.
Crews, who was off-duty at the time, later approached Ponder after hearing Beane’s account and “aggressively demanded that she apologize to the man who accosted her earlier using racial slurs,” the lawsuit states.
Ponder was then taken into custody by another officer on a charge of evading arrest and remained behind bars for a day before she was released. Prosecutors in Hunt County later dropped the charge she faced, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Crews resigned a month after the incident, but a law firm hired by the city found no evidence that the arrest was racially motivated. He now serves as a Hunt County justice of the peace, according to the newspaper.
Beane also resigned his position after the encounter, saying he didn’t want the school district to endure the forthcoming media attention. And while acknowledging that he owed Ponder an apology, Beane suggested the former beauty pageant winner should do the same “for running me off the road,” he told the newspaper in June 2017.
Commerce City Manager Darrek Farrell declined to comment on Ponder’s lawsuit, as did Crews, who has yet to hire an attorney in the case, the Herald-Banner reports.
Ponder’s attorney, Lee Merritt, told the newspaper after Crews resignation that he wasn’t satisfied with the outcome and that he and Ponder were considering a civil rights lawsuit against the city alleging that her Fourth Amendment rights were violated during the incident.
“#MissBlackTexas being called a ‘Black Bitch’ by some racist was bad,” Merritt tweeted in June 2017. “Being arrested by Crews for not apologizing was UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”
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