Houston city councilman charged with evading arrest

July 2, 2010 9:42:05 AM PDT
Police arrested Houston City Council Member Jarvis Johnson late last night on felony charges. He was charged with evading arrest, after police say he refused to pull over for a traffic stop for several blocks. Johnson, 38, has not been to his northwest Houston home nor has he appeared in public since he was arrested Wednesday night.

A Houston police officer spotted Johnson allegedly speeding along the service road in the 2600 block off the Eastex Freeway around 9:30pm Wednesday night. HPD says Johnson did not pull over and drove five or six blocks before pulling into a private driveway at 2606 Staples. He was then taken into custody and arrested.

An officer and a supervisor on scene say Johnson did not show signs of intoxication. The Harris County District Attorney's office accepted charges of felony evading arrest.

The police union says it looks like a pretty straight forward situation.

"As any other citizen, person refuses to stop when a police officer is behind them, they fail to do so, it's a violation of the law," said Gary Blankinship, head of the Houston Police Officers Union. "Anyone who does that is going to be arrested and going to be charged."

Sources say the married father of two was accompanied in the car by his city council secretary. HPD says the woman is not being identified because she is only being considered a witness.

When we stopped by Johnson's home this morning, his wife said Johnson was not there. She would not answer our questions if she was the female passenger in the car at the time of the arrest.

Johnson was released after posting $2,000 bond.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker released a statement Thursday morning saying, "The arrest of Council Member Jarvis Johnson is not related to his position or work as a member of Houston City Council. He has a right to due process. The justice system will run its course. Beyond that, I will defer to the facts in the public record."

Johnson has served three terms as council member for District B. He ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress earlier this year. His blog says he's adopted the mantra of "leading by example."

A statement by Johnson this morning called the arrest "unjust" and he had scheduled a press conference Thursday afternoon.

However, the press conference was canceled and Johnson issued a second statement instead. In it, he said that he had been concerned about the "speed traps" set up by police in the Lyons, Liberty/Waco bridge area and had brought the issue to the attention of both Parker and former Mayor Bill White. He also said he'd notified Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland as well as his predecessor, Harold Hurtt.

Johnson's original statement erroneously referred to Chief McClelland as 'McClendon' and misspelled the former chief's name. After Eyewitness News pointed out the mistakes, his staff sent a corrected version. [Read the original version and the corrected one]

"Last night was an unfortunate situation where the officer erroneously surmised that I was speeding and fled his warning - a claim I vehemently deny," Johnson wrote in the statement. "At no point did I drive over 25 mph, run stop signs, or maneuver around any vehicle. I acted in no way that would give any indication that I was attempting to flee or evade apprehension.

"As soon as I noticed the officer's lights and sirens, I immediately turned into my family's non-profit Youth Center where an exchange transpired that I am doubtful complies with standard police operating policy. However, I remained cooperative and will continue to do so."

Johnson later wrote that even though the officer "overreacted," he still had faith in the system and asked the public to not allow the actions of the officer to be used as a "reflection of the entire department of brave public servants."

"I sincerely hope that last night's incident was not in response to my constant communication with the police in requesting an end to 'speed traps' in the area, and an increase of patrol," Johnson said in the statement. "We all work with the people in mind; they are our greatest priority."

On Thursday, McClelland also issued a statement notifying the public and media of Johnson's attempt and charge of evading arrest. However, he wasn't as detailed about the events leading up to the councilman's arrests.

"This is a matter to be resolved through the criminal justice system," McClelland wrote in the statement. "I want all officers to know that I am proud of their service and commitment to the citizens of Houston, while enforcing all laws to keep the city safe. As Chief of Police, I am proud to be the leader of an organization of dedicated professionals."

As for Johnson, neither he not the mayor have said whether he will stay on the job as normal at City Hall. The thoughts of his colleagues are on his family.

"If anyone is charged with a crime, it affects their entire family. So I spoke to his wife this morning, and I told her that I love her, and I'm here to support her," said City Council Member Jolanda Jones. And at least one community activist is coming to Johnson's defense.

"I think Jarvis Johnson is innocent. I think the arrest was unjust," said Deric Muhammed. "We as a community stand side by side with Mr. Johnson."

Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the latest on this story.


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