A Texas town with a history of racial conflict fired two white police officers Monday after their brutal beating of an African-American woman was caught on tape.
In the video, captured by security cameras at the Jasper, Texas, police headquarters, the two officers can be seen slamming the woman’s head into a countertop and tackling her to the ground. “The amount of force used was abominable,” the woman’s attorney, Cade Bernsen, told Yahoo! News.
According to Bernsen, her client, 25-year-old Keyarika “Shea” Diggles, was brought to the Jasper police station on May 5 after failing to pay a fine. Diggles was on the phone with her mother in an attempt to acquire the $100 needed to pay the fine, when one of the officers, Ricky Grissom, allegedly cut off the conversation.
Although the security video has no sound, Yahoo! News reports that Diggles and Grissom were arguing when Officer Ryan Cunningham came up behind Diggles and attempted to handcuff her. At one point, Diggles endeavored to raise her hand, prompting Cunningham to grab her by the hair and slam her head into the countertop. The officers then wrestled Diggles to the ground and dragged her into a prison cell by her ankles.
“She got her hair pulled out, broke a tooth, braces got knocked off … it was brutal,” Bernsen told Yahoo! News of the beating. Diggles was initially charged with resisting arrest, but that charge was dropped on Monday in light of the video, according to Bernsen.
Jasper, a southeast Texas town of about 8,000 people, has dealt with racial incidents before. In 1998, James Byrd, an African-American male, was killed by three white men who tied him to the back of a truck and dragged him for several miles before decapitating him, Yahoo! News notes. The hate crime prompted a wave of marches by both the Ku Klux Klan and the New Black Panthers.
“The more things change, the more they remain the same,” City Council Member Alton Scott told Yahoo! News regarding Jasper’s racial tensions. Scott reportedly distributed the video of Diggles’ beating to local television stations after he heard that the victim’s written complaint was being ignored.
“There’s nothing she said that could have justified what they did,” Scott told Yahoo! News. “They are supposed to be trained professionals. They are supposed to be above that. It was inexcusable.”
In addition to their Monday termination, Officers Grissom and Cunningham may be investigated for their potentially criminal actions during the beating. Bernsen expressed his hopes that the investigation would be undertaken by the FBI or state police, rather than the Jasper Police Department. “I don’t trust the Police Department as far as you can throw them,” he told Yahoo! News.