Waller Co. Pct. 3 constable claims he was racially profiled when pulled over

Mycah Hatfield Image
Thursday, August 20, 2020
A Black Waller County constable says he was racially profiled
A Black Waller County constable says he was racially profiled and hand cuffed by Harris County deputy constables, who are also Black.

WALLER COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A Waller County constable believes he was racially profiled earlier this week by law enforcement when he was pulled over.

Precinct 3 Constable Herschel Smith said he was stopped Tuesday by deputies from the Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office on Beltway 8 northbound near Memorial.

"He's got like police lights," the 911 caller was heard saying to the dispatcher. "I thought I was being pulled over by the police. When I slowed down and I got in the left lane in the shoulder on the left side to get pulled over, he pulled up next to me and pointed a gun at me and was yelling stuff at me and drove off."

Video from TransStar shows the constable in handcuffs. Smith also said the deputies who pulled him over had their guns drawn.

FULL INTERVIEW: Waller County constable shares story about how he believes he was racially profiled

FULL INTERVIEW: A Waller County constable spoke to ABC13 after he was pulled over at gunpoint and handcuffed because he is Black.

ABC13 reached out to the Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office regarding the incident. Deputies said they stopped Smith because they received a call claiming a person pointed a weapon at other cars and was driving a vehicle similar to the one driven by Smith.

According to deputies, Smith told them he had flashed his lights at a person who was driving too fast. Smith later said the driver cut him off.

"When he cut me off and did the thing he did, I hit my lights to try to protect everybody else around," Constable Smith said.

Smith, who is Black, claimed the officers who pulled him over were racially profiling him.

Harris County Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap said his deputies received only the make of the vehicle involved and the license plate from dispatchers, but no description of the driver was given.

FULL INTERVIEW: Harris County Pct. 5 Constable Ted Heap speaks about constable who claimed he was racially profiled

FULL INTERVIEW: Harris County Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap speaks out after constable claims he was racially profiled

"They conducted a high risk traffic stop," Constable Heap said. "Why? Because we know there is a weapon involved."

He said he reviewed the body camera video Wednesday and his deputies' behavior did not raise concerns for him.

Constable Smith was put in handcuffs on the shoulder of the Beltway for 1 minute and 47 seconds before he was released, according to Heap.

"They ignored my badge," Smith said. "They ignored my uniform. They ignored my name. It said constable."

Smith said he felt like the deputies should have known he was law enforcement before pulling him over. He turned on his lights during the traffic stop and said they should have run his plates before pulling their guns and escalating the situation.

According to Heap, his deputies did run the license plate and the car Smith was driving was registered to Enterprise Holdings. Records did not indicate that it was a Waller County patrol car.

In June, Smith's vehicle was reported as suspicious by another law enforcement agency, Heap said. Smith said he has had the car for about eight months.

Ultimately, Smith said this boils down to prejudice on the part of the 911 caller and Harris County Precinct 5 constable deputies. He said this speaks to a bigger problem at Precinct 5 and policing in general.

He wants an apology from Constable Heap and he wants the deputies to receive more training.

"Constable Ted Heap, call him and ask him why he hasn't called the constable," Smith said. "No apology from the deputies or anything."

"My response would be, 'Why would I call him? He's a suspect in a criminal case,'" Constable Heap said. "If I was to call a suspect in a criminal case, would you imagine how that is going to play?"

Heap said the two lead deputies on the case were Black.

The 911 caller was interviewed Tuesday night and expressed to deputies that he wanted to file charges.

The incident is still under investigation and has been handed over to the Texas Rangers, at the advice of the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

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