Woman suing Houston after arrest for refusing tow

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's a stressful situation when a car breaks down in the middle of a freeway.

But one woman's vehicular inconvenience ended with her arrest.

She's now suing the city and two Houston police officers in federal court.

Jasma Mccullough says she was on her way to visit a dying relative when disaster struck.

"The car started sputtering. I ended up trying to pull over but I stopped maybe two lanes from the shoulder," she said.

She said the gas gauge wasn't working and she ran out of fuel. She called police to let officers know she was stuck on I-10.

"I had my four kids in the car. I'm just trying to move," she said.

A tow truck stopped, but Jasma said it didn't seem like he was there to help.

"He was like, 'Houston has this law called Safe Clear and I have the authority to tow your car,'" she said.

Jasma said the tow truck driver explained the ordinance would allow him to take her car to a lot where she would have pay to get it out, something she couldn't afford.

Besides, she said she already had her sister on the way to help.

"She was right there with the gas. Like everything could have been fixed and I could have been on my way," she said.

Houston police showed up too and Jasma said the officers weren't happy that she didn't want to hand her car over.

"All I did was assert my rights and I'm asking them, like, 'Y'all have to tell me why I'm giving y'all my car,'" she said.

As she continued to protest the tow, Jasma said the officers grew impatient and arrested her in front of her frightened children.

"I sat in jail for nothing. Like no reason. It's not possible to let that go," she said.

Officers let her sister take the kids as they took Jasma to jail.

It happened last year, but it's not over.

Jasma filed a lawsuit against the city of Houston and two officers involved, claiming they violated her constitutional rights.

HPD referred us to the city's legal department for comment and we've yet to hear back.

The Safe Clear program was controversial from the start more than a decade ago. At certain points, drivers in stalled cars could have to pay $75 or more, even if they didn't want to be towed.

That ordinance was replaced just a few weeks ago with a new program called Tow and Go, which will help you off the road for free.

You may want to save this number in your phone: 713-881-3333.

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