The incident took place May 5, when Keyarika “Shea” Diggles, 25, was brought to jail to pay the fine, according to her lawyer, Cade Bernsen. Diggles, according to Bersen, was on the phone speaking with her mother to arrange the payment when Officer Ricky Grissom ended the call. The video recording has no audio, but it appears that Grissom and Diggles began arguing after he discontinued the call.
Officer Ryan Cunningham soon comes in behind Diggles and tries to handcuff her. She showed no sign of resistance but Cunningham violently grabbed Diggles by the hair and slams her head into a counter. The officers then slam Diggles to the ground. One of the officers tried to drag her to the jail cell but ends up pulling off her shoe. Both officers eventually pull her into the cell. Diggles was charged with resisting arrest; the charge was eventually dropped Monday.
Bersen says his client suffered a broken tooth, damaged braces and a loss of hair as a result of the incident.
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The officers’ firing comes 15 years to the week after an infamous hate crime in Jasper, a town of about 8,000 people two hours northeast of Houston. James Byrd Jr., a black man, was tied to the back of a pickup by three white men and dragged for several miles until he was decapitated. The high-profile case triggered marches by the New Black Panthers and Ku Klux Klan.
Last year, a majority-white Jasper City Council fired the town’s first black chief after 16 months on the job. Rodney Pearson is now suing, claiming his civil rights were violated.
“It’s a different part of the world, man, it’s crazy,” said Bernsen, who’s also representing the fired police chief.
Jasper’s interim city manager confirmed the terminations, but referred questions about the Diggles case to the interim police chief, who was unreachable Monday afternoon.
“The more things change, the more they remain the same,” Jasper City Council Member Alton Scott said of the city’s racial troubles.
Scott obtained the video in the Diggles’ incident and turned it over to a local TV station after he heard that her written complaint against the officers was apparently being ignored.
“There’s nothing she said that could have justified what they did,” Scott said. “They are supposed to be trained professionals. They are supposed to be above that. It was inexcusable.”
The Jasper City Council requested that Officers Cunningham and Grissom be investigated for possible criminal charges. Bernsen would prefer that the FBI or state police conduct the investigation.
“I don’t trust the Police Department as far as you can throw them,” he told Yahoo! News.