As police across the country try to quell unrest from claims of police brutality, a video of an arrest made by Baytown police about 6:45 p.m. Tuesday made the rounds on social media, along with allegations of excessive force being used by one of the department’s officers.
The incident started with an officer stopping a vehicle driven by 23-year-old Jostin Moore of Baytown at a store in the 2900 block of Market Street. Baytown police spokesman Lt. Steve Dorris said Moore was later arrested for traffic violations and an outstanding warrant out of Deer Park.
It was what happened with some of Moore’s friends, though, that led to an internal affairs investigation.
Moore was alone in his car, but had recently been with three friends who were in a separate vehicle and said they were heading for the store when they saw him pulled over.
The three friends were 24-year-old Skylar Gilmore, 23-year-old Isaiah Phillips and Isaiah Benavides. Benavides, Moore and Phillips are black, as is another friend who arrived on the scene shortly afterward, Dajone Mitchell. Gilmore is white.
Benavides, who made a video of the encounter and was not arrested, said, “We were just videotaping to make sure it was a normal traffic stop, to make sure they didn’t violate his rights or anything, and they ended up getting mad at us, I guess because we didn’t let them bully him.”
Gilmore pulled out his phone and called Mitchell, who arrived a couple minutes later, he said. While the arrest was taking place at the store’s fuel island, Gilmore and Benavides appear to be observing from behind their truck on the other side of the parking lot.
After being handcuffed, Moore waited in front of the patrol car while the officer was inside the car. Moore exchanged some comments with his friends who were standing by.
The video then shows one of the officers walking across the parking lot to Gilmore and appearing to grab for his phone. Gilmore says, “What, I didn’t do nothing.”
The officer responds, “You’re cussing in public, put your hands behind your back.” He then pushes Gilmore against the wall, pushes him to the ground and puts his knee on Gilmores back. Gilmore puts his hands behind his back and is handcuffed.
“They were trying to say he was cursing at the officer, Mitchell said in an interview Wednesday, but he was on the phone with me; he just so happened to be using curse words.”
The same officer pushed Phillips facedown onto the hood of the truck and handcuffs him. The officer then points his finger at Benavides, and says, “If you don’t get back I’m going to break your sx&#.”
Benavides, Phillips and Mitchell all said they had encountered the officer, who they identified as “Officer Brown,” previously.
Benavides said most of the response to the posted video has been positive. “A lot of people that are responding to the video have also had their run-ins with Officer Brown, and they’re telling their stories.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes,” Benavides said.
Phillips said the other officer involved in the arrests was calmer. “He was pushing, but at the same time, he was really following Officer Brown’s lead. He was more trying to calm everything down.”
After backup arrived, the men said, other officers did little other than surround the bystanders. At one point, Benavides said, he asked another bystander to start filming in case he got arrested.
When asked what they wanted to see done, the men focused on the conduct of one officer, but said the others could have intervened. “The other officers that are there allowing this to happen, they need to speak up,” Phillips said.
“We’re trying to make sure he doesn’t make the badge look bad,” he added. Phillips said his mother is a police officer with another agency.
“Their job is to serve and protect, and when they’re watching an officer abuse someone was complying, then that’s not them doing their job,” Mitchell said.
Benavidas said one officer did speak up in his defense. “The other officer even tried to get Officer Brown to stay away from me, that I’m like not doing anything. I’m literally recording and he was trying to come at me still. The other officer let it be known out loud.”
“If it takes us to stand up and to get physically assaulted and for stuff to happen to us, that’s what it’s going to take,” Phillips said.
Wednesday evening the City of Baytown Facebook page had a post that read, “We are aware of the video that is circulating on social media regarding the arrests made yesterday on Market Street, and we understand your concerns. City and Police administration takes allegations of wrongdoing seriously and we would like to assure the public that the matter is under investigation with the Internal Affairs Division. We ask for your patience as the investigation is completed.”
Gilmore and Phillips were charged with disorderly conduct-language. Gilmore was also charged with interfering with public duties. Both were released on bond. Both said they plan to file formal complaints with the department.
Police Chief Keith Dougherty referred the incident to Internal Affairs.