by Jamie Burch
SAN ANGELO — After being pinned to a soda machine and forcibly detained in front of his young child for a crime he couldn’t legally be charged with, a man has filed a federal lawsuit against three San Angelo police officers.
On Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, a video uploaded to YouTube began circulating in comments on the police department’s official Facebook page of an attempted arrest officers made Oct. 4, 2020. On Friday afternoon, the link to the department’s Facebook page said the account wasn’t available.
Three officers — Michael Webber, Trey Mayberry, and Raymond Francis — attempted to arrest Jack Miller for failure to identify after questioning him about drinking, according to a statement released to the Standard-Times from Miller’s attorneys, who filed the lawsuit in December
Earlier in the week San Angelo Police Chief Frank Carter issued a statement acknowledging the officers had “clearly mishandled” the incident and said an internal investigation was launched into the officers’ conduct.
In Texas, a person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer after — and not before — he has been lawfully arrested.
“When Mr. Miller peacefully exercised his legal right to refuse this unlawful demand, Officers Webber, Mayberry, and Francis threatened to have Mr. Miller’s child taken away, assaulted him, and then illegally arrested him in front of his three year old son for failing to submit to their authority by identifying himself,” stated James P. Roberts and Scott H. Palmer, who are Miller’s attorneys.
Miller filed the lawsuit to hold police more accountable for their actions, according to his attorneys.
“This abuse of power and authority displayed by Officers Webber, Mayberry, and Francis is just one of the latest examples of police misconduct which has stoked nationwide discussions over the past few months,” the statement said. “Mr. Miller filed this lawsuit not only to hold these officers accountable, but with the hope that all officers will see that there are consequences for their illegal actions.”
Body camera footage shows officers’ response, arrest, crying child
Body camera footage showed officers responding to an “alleged intoxicated driver with a child passenger,” who had entered Walmart. The officers were told their suspect was “a white male, approximately 5-foot-9, with brown curly hair” driving a Chevrolet Equinox.
In the footage, officers are seen speaking with a man they said matched the description in their call notes. They asked the man, later identified as Jack Miller, if he had been drinking and to identify himself.
Miller tells officers he doesn’t have to give them identification. He tells police he has his identification card on him, but will not hand it over.
One officer tells Miller if he fails to comply, CPS might arrive to take his child.
“So now you’re threatening to take away my kid?” Miller says, then tells officers he cannot be charged with a failure to identify himself unless he’s been arrested, which officers begin to do forcefully.
“When the man failed to comply with their requests to identify himself, the officers used physical force to effect an arrest for the charge of failure to identity when the elements of that offense were not, in fact, met,” according to a police news release.
“It’s OK,” Miller tells his son three-year-old son, who can be heard crying as officers forcibly restrain Miller.
“We got one resisting,” a police officer speaks into a radio. “We got him in custody.”
Video footage shows Miller’s 3-year-old son sitting with a Walmart employee, watching as his father is taken out of the store in handcuffs to be placed in a waiting patrol car.
After sitting in a police car for about 10 minutes, a patrol supervisor tells the officers to release Miller.
“The expectation is that all SAPD officers know the law and apply it properly, and a failure to do so does not meet our policy or standards,” Carter said in a statement. “We are very fortunate that one of our Patrol Supervisors swiftly intervened and prevented further harm to this man by releasing him before he was taken to jail. I recognize incidents such as this can lead to losing public confidence in police, and I take our responsibilities to the public very seriously.”