Convinced he was in the right, a white HOA president in Oklahoma City took it upon himself to detain a black man driving through his neighborhood in a tractor trailer Monday, demanding to know where he was going and what he was doing inside the gated community.
The black man, Travis Miller, had just finished delivering an appliance to a homeowner who lives in the community. That homeowner had given Miller the passcode to allow himself inside the gated community to do his job. Miller was on his way out of when he was detained against his will by a 66-year-old man named David Stewart, who claimed to own 1/18th of the street Miller was driving on, which therefore gave him the right to detain him.
But Stewart’s actions can best be described as false imprisonment because in order to make a lawful citizen’s arrest in Oklahoma, he must have had “reasonable cause” the person has committed a felony. Driving down a residential street after delivering an appliance to a homeowner who purchased it would not meet those standards.
“All you have to do is tell me where you’re going,” Stewart said after pulling his car directly in front of Miller’s truck.
“I don’t have to tell you shit,” responded Miller who began live streaming to Facebook.
After almost 25 minutes into his live stream, the homeowner who had purchased the appliance walked out and informed Stewart that Miller was there on legitimate business, prompting him to remove his car from Miller’s path. Stewart even told him he was calling police to tell them they were no longer needed.
But even then, Miller was reluctant to leave because he feared he would then be accused of fleeing the scene. It was only after he called the local police department while wiping tears from his eyes to ensure they were not still coming that he felt safe enough to drive out of the neighborhood.
After all, it was only last week that a video surfaced out of Georgia showing a former cop and his son chase down and kill a black man named Ahmaud Arbery who was jogging through their neighborhood, accusing him of breaking into homes. Before the video was leaked, local prosecutors claimed the father and son had acted in self defense, even though the video shows they were the ones who attacked him. They have since been arrested but only because of the video.
In the Oklahoma incident, Miller made it clear he was recording for his own safety. The video shows he was trying to strike a balance between standing up for his rights without escalating the situation as tempting as it might have been. The video shows Miller could have driven around Stewart’s car but it would have required him to drive the tractor trailer through people’s yards.
“I don’t want to make a bad situation worse,” Miller explained in a phone conversation with somebody from his job when asked if he could do that.
Although he shows much restraint in the video, Miller told local media the situation made him more emotional than usual because he has been mourning the death of two family members who recently died within two days of each other but did not elaborate on how they died.
“I just know that emotionally, it was hard to maintain restraint, especially when I’m dealing with death in the family, two family members within two days of each other,” Miller said. “I just did the best I could to not make a bad situation worse.
At one point, a second homeowner walked out and confronted Miller, asking if he had made a “wrong turn” into the gated community.
“How do I make a wrong turn into a gated neighborhood,” responded Miller. “I need to have a gate code in order to get in, right? That’s common sense.”
“How did you get the gate code,” the second man asked.
“That’s none of your business,” responded Miller.
“It sure as hell is my business,” the man responded.
“It sure as hell isn’t,” Miller responded.
“You’re in the wrong, buddy,” the man said as he walked away.
The man then comes back and tries again.
“All we want to know is why you’re in here and who gave you the gate code,” the man said. “That’s all we need to know.”
“Show me your badge,” responded Miller to which the man said he did not have one. “Then you don’t have a reason to ask me any questions.”
Stewart then chimed in by telling Miller, “this is our street. This is a private street.”
He then went on to explain that the street is maintained by the homeowners and he owns a fraction of it.
“I own 1/18th of what you’re sitting on,” Stewart claims. “This street is private. This is not city property.”
And maybe the other homeowner who confronted him also owned a fraction of the street. But for all we know, the homeowner who purchased the appliance also owns a fraction of the street. But even if it is a private street owned by the homeowners association, they still do not have the right to detain people without reasonable suspicion they have committed a felony. Not even cops have that right.
Miller’s Facebook video, which is more than 37 minutes long, is posted below. A shortened, edited version, which is less than six minutes long, is embedded above.