It's time to meet Robert Powell, an officer in the Dallas Police Department, and your early favorite to win the 2009 Jerk of Year Award.
Early on the morning of March 18 (late Tuesday night), Office Powell pulled over Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats (and his family) in their SUV for driving through a red light. After some pursuit, Moats finally stopped, and his wife, father-in-law and wife's great-aunt immediately exited the vehicle, causing Powell to draw his gun on the family (whether or not he pointed it at them is being debated). "He was pointing a gun at me as soon as I got out of the car," said Tamishia Moats.
Why had Moats run the red light? The same reason he didn't stop the car until parked outside of the hospital: his mother-in-law was inside, dying from cancer, and she had literally just minutes to live.
“You really want to go through this right now?” Moats pleaded. “My mother-in-law is dying. Right now!”Unfortunately for Moats, Powell did not show any leniency.
“I saw in his eyes that he really did not care,” Tamishia Moats said. “Honestly, I don’t think I cared that he had a gun pointed at me. My train of thought is that I’m going to see my mom in the hospital before she dies.”Despite Moats' pleading, Office Powell continued with the traffic stop, asking to see his license and proof of insurance. At this point, Moats began to give attitude, saying that he didn't know where his insurance papers were, and that Powell could go get it if he really wanted it. “Just give me a ticket or whatever,” he said, beginning to sound exasperated and a little argumentative. Moats then began pleading with the officer to let him go before his mother-in-law passed.
Tamishia Moats and her great-aunt ignored the officer and headed into the hospital.
“It was almost like a movie,” she said, “It felt like we had robbed a bank or something.”
Ryan Moats, who stayed behind with the father of the dying woman, said Powell also pointed his gun at him. He said he put his hands on the car because he was afraid that he might get shot.
“I put my hands on the car so he couldn’t say I reached for something,” Ryan said. “He didn’t ask me to put my hands on the car. I just did it to try to protect myself. I was pleading with him.” He tried to explain the situation to the officer.
“I waited until no traffic was coming,” Moats told Powell, explaining his passage through the red light. “I got seconds before she’s gone, man.”
“Just give me a ticket or whatever,” he said, beginning to sound exasperated and a little argumentative.That's when Powell decided to lecture Moats, telling him that if he kept it up, he'd just "...put [Moats] in handcuffs and...take [him] to jail for running a red light.” It was then Moats started to simply agree with everything Powell was saying, clearly hoping to expedite the process, responding, "Yes sir."
“Shut your mouth,” Powell told him. “You can cooperate and settle down, or I can just take you to jail for running a red light.”
“If you’re going to give me a ticket, give me a ticket.”
“Your attitude says that you need one.”
“All I’m asking you is just to hurry up.”
Finally, a hospital security guard told Powell that the Moats were telling the truth - Ryan's mother-in-law truly was upstairs dying. Powell's response? To sit in his car, checking for outstanding warrants, and writing a ticket for Moats. The entire process took roughly 13 minutes.
By the time Moats and his father-in-law reached Jonetta Collinsworth, she had died.
It should be noted that Ryan Moats and his family are black, and Office Powell is white. “I think he should lose his job,” said Ryan Moats. For now, he's been reassigned to desk duty.
UPDATE: Officer Powell is also being investigated for other comments caught on tape that would indicate "...he may have lied about the circumstances under which the pursuit began."