Courthouse

A man calls for Gregg County Sheriff’s deputies June 29 after a confrontation between one of the people supporting a petition to remove the Confederate statue on the county courthouse lawn and a man who says he was there because some of his fellow, older veterans had asked him to be there to protect them as they went to participate in proceedings going on in the commissioners court that morning.

Differing accounts about an alleged misdemeanor assault that occurred two weeks ago in front of the Gregg County Courthouse have been forwarded to the Pct. 1 justice of the peace.

The incident occurred as the Gregg County Commissioners Court heard arguments from the public for and against the removal of the Confederate Civil War monument that’s sat on the courthouse lawn for about 90 years. No formal action on that issue has been considered.

As a petition to remove the monument was presented June 29 inside the courthouse, supporters of the petition waited outside on the lawn, posting signs about the monument and related issues around the monument.

That’s where a confrontation occurred between one of the people supporting the petition and a man who says he was there because some of his fellow, older veterans had asked him to be there to protect them as they went to participate in the proceedings before the commissioners court.

“We have recommended that both parties be summoned to court,” and that no arrest warrant be issued, said Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano. That’s because no sheriff’s office personnel witnessed the incident and the alleged assault would be a Class C misdemeanor in which no one was injured.

The report the sheriff’s office has filed from that day says that one of the protesters, Christopher Michael Williams, said he saw Joseph Albert Burke Jr. taking pictures at Williams’ vehicle.

Video footage Williams provided from that day shows his vehicle was parked in the on-street parking in front of the courthouse.

Williams said this week that when he approached his vehicle, Burke pushed him down.

Burke, however, said the protesters began taking pictures of him and he, in return, started taking pictures of the protesters’ vehicles, according to the sheriff’s office report. He said Williams approached him in an aggressive manner and bumped him, and Burke said he “pushed him away to create separation,” the report from the sheriff’s office says.

Williams this week said the incident occurred when he saw Burke taking pictures and Williams approached his vehicle with the intent of locking the doors when Burke pushed him. Williams said he’s part of a group of people who have been peacefully protesting police brutality and systemic racism.

He said the group of about a dozen people on the lawn weren’t chanting or marching that Monday but presenting information about the Confederacy and historical monuments.

The group was taking photos and videos that day, and one of the video cameras captured the incident, but he said there is an issue with the lens.

That damage meant there wasn’t a clear view of what happened in the exact moment of the encounter between Burke and Williams.

Also, Cerliano said the courthouse security video didn’t capture the incident.