By Monday, you couldn't turn on a computer in Dallas without seeing Michelle Metzinger's bloody face.
The 25-year-old member of local roller derby league Assassination City Roller Derby found herself at the center of an Internet publicity firestorm. Blogs, message boards and MySpace posts made their way to the farthest corners of the Web with detailed stories and even more detailed photos. The reason? A violent arrest in Deep Ellum.
On Friday, January 13, our "Deep Sixed" feature was still sitting on newsstands around the very district it was damning, and in response, the local club owners made an unofficial effort to convince concertgoers that Deep Ellum was still Dallas' center for arts, music and, of course, the weird. An art gallery opening on Elm Street included a freak show where a girl drank motor oil and a guy stuck needles into his face. The Dark Side Lounge hosted a noise-rock extravaganza with Unconscious Collective, Mazinga Phaser II and Jack With One Eye. Assassination City threw a benefit show at the Liquid Lounge. Even Tarantino's got in the act with a "Save the Music" show.
Roughly around 12:15 a.m., this unofficial effort took an official blow. It only makes sense to start the story with the first-hand account that has made the most impact, initially posted on MySpace by Deep Ellum patron (and incident photographer) Camille DuBose:
"There was a derby girl skating from the bar across [Elm Street] to the tattoo parlor. No big deal. But a cop stopped her to give her a ticket. Well, she gave some attitude but went with it. Kept her hands on the car while he wrote her a ticket."
According to DuBose's account, the officer in question, Ceaphus Gordon, took Metzinger to the concrete after she lifted her hands off the car to turn and see someone yelling at her: "The cop got pissed. She gave attitude; I think he shoved her back on the car, so she struggled back up, and he shoved her around. He was at least 200 pounds. She was about 100. Her face was bloody." Shortly after, more than half a dozen police cars and an ambulance arrived on the scene.
The Dallas Police Department tells the story a little differently; for starters, it contradicts witnesses' assumptions that the arrest was for jaywalking (and I hope so, because I jaywalk in Deep Ellum without even thinking about it). Rather, the report states the arrrest was actually for public intoxication. In addition, the report says that Metzinger attempted to gouge out Gordon's right eye, thus justifying the use of force.
What's not being disputed, however, are the photos, which show Gordon pinning Metzinger on the ground by placing his knee on her back and her resulting bloody face.
For a police force routinely maligned for not allocating enough staff to Deep Ellum, why does it take an incident with a bloody roller derby girl to get cops to arrive in the district in droves? Though I actually missed the arrest, I was in the district later that night, walking through unpatrolled streets and vulnerable as ever. I guess those cops were done with Deep Ellum by then.
Also, the number of e-mails and MySpace messages I have received in the past few days brings up a startling truth. How come no drastic e-mail chain started when J.T. Nelson was murdered outside of Club Hush? Where was the outrage when I reported that Dallas police control dance club crowds with mace-loaded paintball guns? Face it--you're not reading this because of the story. You're reading it because of the images directly above this text. They're startling, no matter what really happened.
So, uh, what really happened?
Tough to say, at least from Metzinger's side. She declined to comment, as did her lawyer, Kevin Clancy, saying that he was "still investigating this case" before filing suit and/or a complaint. Assassination City released a short statement, stating the derby girls were "relieved that she is home recuperating." Most eyewitnesses have gone mum, aside from those who have already spoken to news crews from local TV stations. (By the way, they did not receive permission from DuBose to use her photos, nor did they credit her. Way to go, Channel 5 and Channel 8!)
DuBose was mostly quiet, honoring the wishes of Metzinger, but she did have something to say when asked point-blank: Did Metzinger try to gouge out Gordon's right eye?
"No. Not at all," DuBose says. "She was just standing there, like, 'Fine, just give me a ticket.' Not resisting it...I don't know why [gouging] came up. She was pushing against his face [when she was knocked down]. I'm sure she has nails; she's a girl. She wasn't like, 'I don't want a ticket. All of a sudden, I'm going to make a big deal about it!' It doesn't make sense."
DuBose has since received many anonymous e-mails with more complaints about rough Dallas police in Deep Ellum, but she knows none of those stories, true or otherwise, will make it far in their text-only format. She has advice for Deep Ellum patrons: "Take a camera."
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