An activist was watching State Senator Wendy Davis filibuster an abortion bill in the Texas Legislature when two Texas DPS Troopers approached her and told her to come with them. (Note: Although they are troopers, they are also known as Capitol Police, and function more as security guards than as peace officers).
According to the Probable Cause Affidavit, the Lt. Governor order that the gallery be cleared and the Troopers were enforcing that order. When they got to Martha Northington and told her to leave, there was a problem.
According to the arrest affidavit, Northington resisted by grabbing her seat. Unfortunately for the Trooper, the scene was being videotaped. At 0:02 in the video, you can clearly see Northington reach down to pick up her purse and newspaper. Almost immediately after this the Trooper on her right grabs her arm and you hear Northington protest that he’s hurting her. You can see that the black Trooper is not concerned by her picking up the purse, but the white officer has a death grip on her right wrist.
Then, at the top of the steps, the Trooper avers that Northington struck him with an open palm. Really? Funny, it doesn’t appear in the video. Plus, since the Trooper has her right wrist and her left hand is holding a purse (which was not dropped), it would be kind of difficult for her to hit him with an open palm. You can see the purse clearly in this photo.
Northington was apparently originally charged with Assault on a Public Servant, a third degree felony, but the arraigning magistrate reduced the charges to Resisting Arrest and Assault by Contact, Class A and Class C misdemeanors, respectively. Northington was sent to the hospital due to pain in her arm.
According to one report, the Trooper had difficulty filling out his report at the Travis County Jail. That is a typical problem when the arrest is not actually for a crime, but for Contempt of Cop. In addition, state troopers tend to have an attitude that requires their directions to be obeyed without question or hesitation, and they tend to get irritated if they perceive that someone is not moving fast enough. Finally, troopers are extremely reluctant to admit that they made a mistake, as they perceive that as a sign of weakness.
In any event, it is easy to look at this and determine what happened. The Trooper did not think that this little old lady was moving quickly enough and decided to yank her out of her chair even as she was gathering her belongings. Once she challenged him (“you’re hurting me”) he likely decided that she needed to be shown her place and be arrested. This led to the charges. If you look at Northington’s arms, it is fairly clear as to who used force, and it wasn’t the little old lady.
Again, there are problems with this. According to the arrest affidavit, she resisted arrest by grabbing her seat. OK, even if we give the trooper the benefit of the doubt, if she is resisting arrest, there has to be an underlying charge. What was she being arrested for in the first place? Second, any assault on a peace officer is a felony, even if that is just by contact (i.e., an offensive touch). Without video, it is the trooper’s word against the suspect. Here, Northington supposedly slapped the trooper with an open hand. Yet the black trooper does not make a move to help the trooper who was just “assaulted” by Northington. I’ve been in those situations where an officer gets slapped. Every officer that is there immediately jumps in to control the suspect when that happens. That did not happen here, and is indicative of a COC arrest.
As I mentioned, troopers do not like to be questioned on their actions or authority. An old video shows the same attitude with another trooper asking for identification from a journalist.
In that case, a senior trooper had the good sense not to allow any arrest or other action to take place, but the attitude is clear. It is a how dare you question my authority attitude.
You can see this in the reaction of the DPS spokesman to questions on the matter. Her quote was “It’s unfortunate that some find it is easy to pass judgment on the officers who are risking their lives every day to protect and serve Texas.”
Really? I don’t know about you, but I expect that troopers will not make arrests for COC and will not put false information in arrest affidavits. I’m not real keen on little old ladies being manhandled either.