A Missouri cop who claimed he was acting on behalf of the mayor when arresting a homeless man in a wheelchair is being sued for snatching a phone from a woman who was recording him making the arrest.
The video shows T. Williams from the North County Police Cooperative trying to arrest a man in a wheelchair in front of a gas station while a woman is recording and asking why is the man being arrested.
“Can you go back over there because this has nothing to do with you,” Williams responds before grabbing her phone, opening her car door and tossing the phone inside.
The woman, Sarah Townsend, retrieves her phone and continues recording as the cop tells the man in the wheelchair that multiple people have complained about him begging for change.
But Townsend, who had been talking to the man before the cop pulled up, tells the cop “he was not begging.”
However, the cop is insistent on making the arrest, telling the man he is acting upon orders from the mayor.
The woman is standing about 15 feet from the cop and the man in the wheelchair when he says, “Can you get out of my face please?”
The cop then takes eight strides towards Townsend and snatches the phone from her again, this time putting it in his pocket.
“Fuck you, b_tch, get the f_ck out of my face,” he told her after turning the phone off, according to the lawsuit.
When interviewed by the St. Louis American, Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones said he issued no such demand.
“I think it was inappropriate,” Jones said. “From my understanding, he’s under investigation and I’m very confident that the co-op will handle it swiftly and justly.”
While the arrest was occurring, Williams told the man that the store personnel had called “the mayor” about him “begging and harassing” people, the video shows. The lawsuit alleges that Williams told the man that the mayor himself had called the police, though this statement is not heard on the video.
Jones denies this claim and said that hearing Williams talk about the mayor calling was particularly “disturbing” to him.
“I don’t even know who works in that store,” Jones said. “I’ve never communicated with the owners of that store about that individual being arrested. I think Williams was probably trying to use his leverage to let him know how serious it may be.”
The mayor also said that Williams is no longer working in Dellwood which means he is working in other municipalities in the area that are patrolled by the North County Police Cooperative, which describes itself on its website as a “possible alternative to the status quo in policing.”
But the video shows they are the status quo in their disregard for the U.S. Constitution.
The incident took place August 26, 2018 as Townsend was pumping gas in her car and talking to the man in the wheelchair.
That was when Williams pulled up in his patrol car and told the man he was going to jail which was when Townsend began recording.
Williams eventually gave Townsend her phone back but also told her he would be looking out for her license plate in the future to arrest her.
Townsend is being represented by the ACLU of Missouri Foundation as well as the First Amendment Clinic at the Washington University School of Law.