A Dallas man says he was driving down a country road in his native Harrison County a couple of weekends ago when he found himself in stare-down with another man on a horse.
Retired Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland describes what happened the evening of Aug. 4 on Floyd Evans Road as almost like a Western movie but says the local sheriff doesn’t appear to be coming to the rescue.
Ragland has since posted about the incident on social media.
On Monday, Harrison County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy B.J. Fletcher issued a statement, saying his agency monitors social media but doesn’t respond to allegations on social media.
“This office investigates all criminal complaints or allegations that could put our citizens in danger. If a criminal complaint is substantiated, it would then be referred to the correct court of jurisdiction,” according to the statement.
Ragland said Monday that the sheriff’s statement “is misleading and mischaracterizes not only what occurred on Aug. 4, but the conversations I had with authorities that night and subsequently.” Ragland also said he’s taking the matter to state and federal authorities.
Ragland said he was driving down Floyd Evans Road near Elysian Fields — his hometown — in a rental car with California license plates shortly after 5:30 p.m. that Sunday. Also in the vehicle were Ragland’s 10-year-old son, Judah, and his son’s 12-year-old cousin.
They noticed three people along the road, but then one of the men motioned his horse into the middle of the road, Ragland said.
“I was really slow as we approached them,” Ragland said, and the horseman walked toward the vehicle on his horse, coming to a dead stop about 10 yards from the car’s hood.
The man stared into the car, then led his horse to the driver’s-side window and stopped, he said.
“When I rolled the window down to see what he wanted, … I looked up at him, and he was glaring at me, and he said not a word,” Ragland said
Ragland said he tried breaking the ice, telling the man, “Nice horse,” but Ragland said the man responded, “Thank you, but these are Texas roads.”
“I said, ‘Sorry?’ and he said, ‘These are Texas roads.’ I said back to him, ‘I know. I’m from Texas,’ and he said, ‘Your car has California plates,’” Ragland said.
After the horseman seemed to reach down and said a third time that “These are Texas roads,” Ragland said he started to drive away.
The man “didn’t follow us. He just sat there and glared at us as he walked away,” Ragland said.
After dropping the 12-year-old off at a relative’s home and visiting for almost a half-hour, Ragland said he and his son made their way back down Floyd Evans Road, only to find that the horseman was waiting for them.
During the second encounter, Ragland feared at one point that the horseman was reaching for a weapon, but he, instead, produced a loosely rolled-up rope that Ragland described as a noose, he said.
At one point, Ragland stopped his car, got out and took photos of the man holding the rope before driving back to Dallas and then calling Harrison County law enforcement.
“When (the horseman) saw me standing outside the car, he came to a stop in front of a house and held a rope up, and he was yelling something that I couldn’t hear,” Ragland said. “I just took the pictures and climbed back into the car, and we drove away. I then told my son that I needed to report, and he was in tears and just wanted to go home, meaning back to Dallas, and so I made the decision that I didn’t want to traumatize him any further.”
That night, Ragland talked with a Harrison County sheriff’s deputy who said he would question the man, he said. Ragland asked for an update from the deputy and said that he wanted a copy of the incident report.
Ragland said Friday that he didn’t get a return call until Wednesday, after he grew impatient and posted about the incident on Facebook and Twitter, encouraging people to share the posts and call the sheriff’s office.
That’s when Capt. Floyd Duncan called and accused Ragland of harassing the sheriff’s office, he said.
“His tone was very much, ‘You can’t just say stuff on Facebook,’” Ragland said of the conversation. Ragland said Duncan “started talking about the guy has a wife and kids and that he was scared he may lose his job. … With all due respect, I’m the victim here.”
Ragland, who also worked for the Washington Post, has attracted more than 1,000 comments on Facebook posts about the incident.
On Friday, Lt. Jay Webb referred questions about the incident to Fletcher, but Webb said Ragland’s accounts about his dealings with the sheriff’s office were inaccurate.
“There is a 180-degree difference between our side of it and his side of it,” Webb said. “This is turning into something that is very sensitive and very inflammatory and could be a very interesting turn of events.”
As for Ragland’s claims that the man was holding a noose, Webb said, “The man is training a horse. He has a lariat and not a noose.”
According to the department’s statement Monday, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office received a call about 8:20 p.m. Aug. 4 from “a complainant” who said that a man on horseback stopped him on Floyd Evans Road “telling him to slow down. After an exchange of words, the complainant drove away. The complainant later drove back by the location and stated the person on horseback chased him with a rope. The complainant advised that he did not wish to file a ‘bad report’ but wanted to make us aware of what had happened.”
Duncan contacted “the alleged actor” and asked him to come to the sheriff’s office to talk about the events and said that during an interview, Duncan addressed the man about stopping traffic on a county road and instructed him to call authorities with any speeding complaints, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Captain Duncan concluded after talking with both (Ragland) and (the man) that no threats of bodily injury or racial slurs were voiced from either complainant or actor,” the sheriff’s office said in its statement. “There are no charges to be filed in this case due to stated offenses that occurred would have to be” witnessed by a law enforcement officer. “The issue of stopping cars for speeding or any other matters (has) been addressed.”
Ragland said that there were witnesses — his son and his great-nephew who were in the rental car with him.
“At no point did the person who twice threatened me and my son utter a word about speeding, and for good reason — I wasn’t speeding,” Ragland said.
A woman who answered a phone line belonging to the horseman hung up the phone when a reporter identified himself as being with the News-Journal on Friday.
“I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if he did this to someone else and it escalated beyond what happened to us,” Ragland said. “The only agenda I have … is to use whatever resources I have to make sure people are safe on that road and make sure that people like him aren’t allowed to get away with what he did.”