A 23-year-old black woman was arrested and reportedly slammed with a hoax charge after she evaded a seemingly out of control truck — allegedly driven by a police chief.
Carmen Ponder, a paralegal and a beauty queen, was driving to Wal-Mart in Commerce, Texas, when she was cut off by a black truck, which was careening in and out of lanes and making sudden, sporadic stops. The woman feared it was a drunk driver and drove around the truck before turning into the store’s parking lot.
As soon as she got out of the car, the truck driver, identified by Ponder as Hunt County Police Chief Kerry Crews, started hurling profanities at her. He shouted at her that he was teaching his 14-year-old daughter to drive and that Ponder should not have cut in front of him. When the woman informed him said that 14 year olds are not supposed to drive, Crew reportedly shouted back at her, “Oh, whatever, you black b****.”
Ignoring him, Ponder went inside the store but when she came out, two male and one female officer approached her and told her she had upset their boss.
“One of them showed me a badge and said, ‘This here is my chief and what he says goes, and you’re going to apologize to him,’” Ponder said. “And I told him I was not going to apologize to him, I was going to continue walking to my car and I was going to go home.”
But then, the officer suddenly grabbed her arm and told her she was going to be detained and was charged with evading arrest. Ponder was handcuffed, taken into custody, held for 24 hours and only released after she paid a $1,000 bond.
The charges against Ponder were dropped soon after but Montana Bunn, a a paralegal for attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Ponder, said they want the chief fired and assault charges filed against the officer who grabbed and bruised her client.
“She feels humiliated and embarrassed because she's Miss Black Texas 2016. To be dragged through the mud for a legal issue and being arrested, it’s hindering her emotionally, her title and career path,” she said.
However, Crew disputes Ponder’s statement, saying she was the one who approached him and was arrested for failing "to comply with [Crew’s] request." He also said he did not have a 14-year-old daughter.
The city of Commerce also refuted Ponder’s statement.
Ponder's attorney said the beauty queen may have mistaken Crew for some other man. However, he said the police chief still violated her rights when he arrested her.
Jasmine Crockett, who is representing Ponder for the misdemeanor charge, voiced her concerns about available video footage to corroborate both Crew and Ponder’s accounts.
“We won’t have bodycam footage. We won’t have dashcam footage. We won’t have anything except their word against hers,” she said.
However, the investigators will examine the footage from the camera outside the Wal-Mart location and at least two sources close to the investigation said more than one officer at the scene was wearing a bodycam. They also said cell phone footage form a bystander can add more perspective to the incident.
Ponder received a lot of support after she shared her experience on social media.
@CarmenSierraaa Wow - insanely unacceptable. I’m so so incredibly sorry this happened to you.— Alex Martin (@THEAlexMartin) May 24, 2017