HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston-area city councilman who was stunned with a Taser in October during a videotaped confrontation with police said Friday he's happy the officer who wrongly arrested him has been indicted, but his legal team said it is investigating whether race was a factor.
Prairie View City Councilman Jonathan Miller said the incident has altered his view of law enforcement and he is still dealing with the psychological impact — including experiencing the voltage go through his body.
"It's a thought that constantly goes through your mind. It's something you can't escape at this point. I'm always thinking about that one day," a subdued Miller, 26, said during a news conference.
Officer Michael Kelley, who is white, was indicted last week on a misdemeanor count of official oppression after a grand jury concluded he unlawfully arrested Miller, who is black, outside his apartment in Prairie View, a small, predominantly black college town about 50 miles northwest of Houston.
Police questioned four men outside Miller's apartment about suspicious activity in the neighborhood. Video from police body cameras and from a cellphone of one of Miller's friends showed Kelley using a Taser on Miller after the two got into a verbal confrontation.
Miller has insisted he was just trying to explain to officers that he and his friends had done nothing wrong. He was charged with resisting arrest and interference with public duties; a grand jury declined to indict him on one charge and the other was dropped. Prairie View Police Chief Larry Johnson abruptly resigned this week after Kelley was charged.
Kelley's attorney, Roger Bridgwater, said the officer has never had any problem with any person because of his or her race.
"He takes his job very seriously and anybody that has seen the video can see that race is not the issue. Non-compliance with an officer's request is the issue and resisting is the issue," Bridgwater said.
Questions remain on whether race prompted the arrest, said Jolanda Jones, one of Miller's attorneys. A female officer also present during the incident was black.
"This country makes judgments, whether they are subconscious or conscious, about black men, and we've got to challenge those wrong perceptions," Jones said. Miller's other attorney is prominent civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, who has represented the Trayvon Martin family among others; he was not at the news conference.
Jones pointed to the history of racial strife in Waller County, where Prairie View is located, as one of the reasons why they think race might have played a role. The county seat of Hempstead was once known as "Six Shooter Junction" because of white supremacist violence in the 1800s, but local leaders have said the area has left its troubled past behind.
Prairie View is the same city where a white state trooper arrested Sandra Bland, a black woman, on a traffic charge last summer. Bland later died in jail. The Texas state trooper who arrested Bland was indicted this month, charged with perjury for allegedly lying about his confrontation with Bland.
Before he resigned, Johnson told The Associated Press the incident involving Kelley doesn't represent the police department and the agency has good officers.
Kelley filed a race discrimination lawsuit in August against Prairie View, alleging city officials didn't initially want to hire him in 2014 because he was white and that Councilwoman Marie Herndon said that he was rejected for the job because "we don't want his kind here."
Herndon did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment. An attorney representing the city of Prairie View didn't immediately return a call. The lawsuit is still pending in court.
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