Longview police say an “isolated incident” occurred earlier this month when a handful of black men taunted and verbally threatened police officers conducting a traffic stop on Hutchings Boulevard.
Police said that type of incident hasn’t been happening in Longview in the weeks following the death of a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on the man’s neck for more than eight minutes while he was handcuffed. George Floyd’s death has sparked nationwide demonstrations and riots.
“This is not Longview,” said Police Chief Mike Bishop, describing the incident as a group that took advantage of a situation.
It’s not representative of Longview residents, he said.
A video that appears to have been taken by one of the men involved recorded mostly him and another man taunting and yelling at the officers in an expletive- and racial-epithet-filled encounter. The video shows Longview police officers standing calmly, not yelling at or touching the men. The video has been viewed millions of times on various social media platforms, and it’s been shared tens of thousands of times.
Longview police say the incident occurred June 16 in the 800 block of Hutchings Boulevard. Bishop said the traffic stop was conducted by a member of the department’s special investigation unit. Several officers from that unit appear in the video and can be distinguished from the police department’s other officers by their distinctive uniform — green pants and black T-shirts with gear stored in vests they are wearing.
Bishop said the unit is attached to the Texas Anti-Gang Center that was created in Tyler in 2019.
As the small group of men gathered and continued to confront the officers, the members of the special investigation unit summoned backup officers who arrived wearing typical Longview police uniforms.
Longview police spokesman Brandon Thornton said no one was arrested during the incident. However, officers did recognize one of the men involved and discovered he had a warrant for his arrest.
Officers arrested Shermane Laneir Williams, 34, of Longview the next day on a charge of bond forfeiture in connection with a previous charge of continuous violence against the family. He was released from the Gregg County Jail the same day on a bond of $10,000.
In the video, Detective Jonathan Wolfe stands between the man who appears to be Williams and the officer conducting the traffic stop. In the confrontation, Williams threatens to “whip” and “drop” the officer.
As the officer uses a radio to summon more officers, the man recording the incident says, “You’re going to need a whole bunch of it (backup),” and then asks repeatedly, “Where the black laws at?”
The man sometimes laughs and yells wildly.
“Y’all gonna need the whole department,” he yells over and over at one point in the recording.
Bishop said when he saw the video, “It’s not a very comfortable situation.”
“The officers understood that, but what I saw was tremendous composure,” Bishop said. “I saw professionalism on the part of every officer involved out there, and more importantly, I saw them utilize the proper training techniques that they’ve been taught on how to handle these types of situations that have the potential to escalate.”
Bishop said the department would look at the “whole situation” to determine if additional steps need to be taken concerning the men involved.
“Some of (the men) were getting close. They never made contact, but at the point that they had, you’d be looking at a different situation where they’d be interfering with the duties of the officers,” Bishop said. “There were some threats that were made. We’re still taking a look at the whole situation.”
As the video circulated on social media, Thornton said the department has received “overwhelming support from the community.”
On social media platforms where the video was shared, comments ranged from people expressing support for the police to people making racist comments and using racial epithets in response to the video and the men involved.
The video and reaction to it prompted the Rev. LaDarian Brown to respond on Facebook. Brown leads Parkview Baptist Church in Longview and is president of the Longview Area Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. He’s also a Longview police officer.
He praised the officers’ self-discipline, restraint and professionalism, describing them as excellent officers and good people.
“The police did everything they should have done, plus some,” he said. “I think those officers handled themselves in a very, I mean very, good way.”
Locally, some peaceful protests have taken place in the wake of Floyd’s death, but Brown said that movement locally isn’t “black citizens versus the police.”
“That’s not what this movement is about. It’s about wanting to be treated like everyone else,” he said.
That desire, though, doesn’t give the black community the right to act in the manner shown in the video, he said.
“It doesn’t give us the right to be blatantly disrespectful,” he said.
Some people’s motive in circulating the video, though, is to perpetuate stereotypes about the black community, Brown said. Many of the comments are “disturbing,” he said.
“They just blatantly try to do the very thing that they’re asking us not to do,” Brown said. “They’re asking me, a black man, not to put all cops in the same bucket, but now they want to put all black Americans in the same bucket.”
In the end, the actions he saw in the video and the comments people have posted in response point to a “heart issue.”
“What’s wrong with society is their hearts are so messed up,” Brown said. “We have all these great expectations of people who have bad hearts.”