After being arrested and spending a night in jail for walking home from work in the middle of the street during a snowstorm, a Black Texas teen now has learned police charges against him have been dropped.
High school student Rodney Reese, 18, was walking home from his job at a local Walmart in Plano, Texas, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, when he was approached by officers from the Plano Police Department.
Initially, the officers told Reese they just wanted to check on him. They asked him if he was okay and offered him a ride home, but Reese told them he was fine. “I’m on my way home. I’m straight,” Reese said, repeatedly telling officers he didn’t need their help. “Okay, but you’re walking in the middle of the road,” one of the officers said. “I understand that. My bad,” Reese replied, adding “I do this every night, literally. I’m straight.”
Despite his objections, the officers continued to follow Reese for over two minutes. When he refused to give them his name and tell them where he lived, they told him they were doing an investigation and he was “officially detained.” Officers also accused Reese of resisting arrest and pushing them.
Body camera footage captured the incident. It shows Reese continuing to walk home and officers getting frustrated because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them. That’s when things escalated and they handcuffed the young man.
At this point Reese repeatedly begged, “Please just let me go … Please just stop. Let me go.” However, the officers continued to cuff him and told him to get down in the snow. “You want me to get on this snow after y’all was worried about me? Really?” Reese asked. “You’re causing this problem right now,” one of the officers replied.
Reese was officially charged with a pedestrian in the roadway charge and spent the night in jail. Visibly shaken by the incident, Reese said he was walking in the road because the sidewalks were icy. Seeing video of George Floyd and other Black people who were killed by police has caused him to be uneasy around officers, Reese told KDFW-TV FOX 4. He reiterated he kept walking because he just wanted to get home.
“They just treated me like I was a criminal or something. … Just a simple encounter, a simple encounter. That’s why I tried to dodge it, so I could make it home. I don’t know,” Reese said as he choked back tears during an interview with FOX 4.
Officers said someone called them to check on a man wearing only a T-shirt and stumbling in the snow. Plano Police Chief Ed Drain, who is Black, said his officers were right to do the welfare check, but they were wrong to arrest Reese because he had the right not to cooperate.
“There’s a lot of information that we know about this case that we didn’t know at the time. Those officers did not know his age. They didn’t know he was 18. They didn’t know he worked at Walmart. They didn’t know where he lived,” Drain said. “They should’ve taken him home; that’s where he should’ve gone.”
Reese believes the incident was racially motivated and he wouldn’t have been arrested if he were white. “Just ’cause I’m Black, that’s it. It’s ’cause I’m Black, I fit a description. I don’t even think the call would’ve happened [if I wasn’t Black], honestly,” Reese said. “It hurts, man. You don’t know if you gon’ make it back home from people that’s supposed to protect and serve you.”
Family and friends vouched for Reese as a good kid with no record. “I know the kid’s character. I know the kid’s demeanor,” family friend Ozell Graham told FOX 4. At a news conference hosted by the NAACP, Reese’s mother, Rachel Brown, said the way her son was treated “just kills” her.
“I moved to Plano for a reason, and that reason backfired on me,” Brown said, according to KXAS-TV. “I pay more to live in the area that I live in. And yet the people that I pay taxes to, I pay their salary, they didn’t serve him that night. They failed him that night.”
Drain said he doesn’t think race was a factor, but admitted he “can’t get inside people’s hearts. I can’t get inside people’s heads.” The police department hasn’t disclosed whether it will investigate, but the unidentified officers have already been convicted by many in the court of public opinion.
“So many start like this and escalate. That poor kid must have been scared to death.it could have easily ended in death. Ended ok? well he is a live but of course scared for life,” user @fox60Pa tweeted along with hashtags of some of the names of Black people police have killed.
“Police will always justify their behavior. No matter how suspicious,callous, unwarranted, or racist. They are always believed by white folk even when they maim and murder “He/she should have complied, or listened,followed orders”. Cops serve/protect WP contain/control BP,” added user @heard 222.
“Repeated story: (1) irrational fear (2) racial profile (3) ignore all rational context (4) excessive force/violence (5) police leadership/union acknowledge rank-and-file followed training (6) no remediation to process. We need national police policy and training reform,” wrote @ChiTownSidBrown.
User @CayBorduin1 expressed how it felt seeing a constant barrage of similar incidents between police and Black people in one sentence: “I’m exhausted by all this and I’m a white lady.”