Reliably, once every six months or so, the Arlington Police Department ends up in the news for screwing up, even though the city it serves is about a quarter the size of Dallas and less than half the size of Fort Worth. Here are five of the lowlights of the past five years.
5. Arlington police breathe legitimacy into Kory Watkins.
As of the summer of 2014, Kory Watkins was known for one thing: being the head of Open Carry Tarrant County. Watkins and his compatriots' frequent, rifle-brandishing demonstrations were viewed as an annoyance carried out by extremists. Watkins' watches, during which he and several likeminded libertarians filmed police performing traffic stops, were largely unknown to anyone but North Texas officers.
That summer, however, Watkins was involved in a escalating series of incidents with APD that resulted in his becoming a martyr of sorts. On Sept. 6, 2014, APD arrested Watkins and his wife, Janie Watkins, for interfering with an otherwise uneventful traffic stop on Cooper Street. While Kory Watkins spent only a few hours in jail after the arrest, the attention that came with it helped make him a bona fide media figure for the next couple of years.
In January 2015, Watkins created furor at the Texas Capitol when he and other open-carry advocates stormed Texas Rep. Poncho Nevarez's office, causing Capitol police to install panic buttons in the offices of state representatives who wanted one. In February 2015, Watkins accused legislators who wanted licensed open carry, rather than the unlicensed flavor he prefers, of treason and threatened them with the death penalty. Now, he's running for governor on a platform that includes full drug legalization, the abolition of property taxes and an end to restrictions on purchasing and owning firearms.
4. Arlington police officer Brad Miller shoots and kills Christian Taylor.
On Sept. 8, 2015, police trainee Brad Miller and five other Arlington police officers responded to an alarm at the Classic Arlington car dealership on Interstate 20. Christian Taylor, a 19-year-old college football player, was cavorting around the closed dealership after driving his car through the parking lot's closed gate. Miller followed Taylor into the dealership's main building, according to Arlington police Chief Will Johnson, and shot Taylor four times.
Taylor was unarmed, but both Miller and his training officer, Dale Wiggins, said they noticed a bulge in Taylor's pocket. That bulge, it turned out, was the teenager's wallet and cellphone.
Johnson fired Miller for "exercising poor judgement" the week after the shooting, but a Tarrant County Grand Jury failed to indict the ex-officer in June 2016. Taylor's family received $850,000 from the city of Arlington, which city said was "not an admission of guilt or liability."
3. Arlington police write fake parking tickets.
In March, 16 Arlington police officers turned in their badges and their peace officers licenses to avoid being charged in connection to writing fake traffic tickets and reports in 2016. The officers claimed they wrote the phony citations in response to quotas imposed by APD brass, but the department denied such quotas existed.
2. Arlington officers arrest two teens as their mother films the incident.
On July 4 weekend, Arlington police arrested a 14-year-old boy for allegedly breaking into a car at his apartment complex. His mother, Latasha Nelson, filmed her son's arrest. While she filmed, police also wrestled her 16-year-old son to the ground for allegedly bumping into an officer.
Nelson, who claims her 14-year-old is innocent and was walking around the complex to see if its swimming pool was open, posted the video of the arrest to Facebook before police confiscated her phone as evidence. The video went viral, and Nelson said police told her they would drop the charges against her sons if she deleted the video.
According to the department, it is still investigation the arrests of the two boys. In a July 14 statement, the department said it had found no evidence supporting Nelson's claim that officers offered to drop the charges against her son in exchange for the video. However, APD said that there is no evidence on the video that Chad Haning, the officer who made the arrests, told Nelson where her sons where being taken.
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1. Suspect dies after Arlington police taser him while he's covered in gasoline.
On July 10, Arlington police responded to a call about a suicidal man in the 1600 block of Carla Avenue. After officers arrived, they began talking to Gabriel Olivas, 39. During their conversation, Olivas doused himself with gasoline. APD officers, fearful that an object in Olivas' hand was a lighter, elected to shoot him — with a Taser. Olives abruptly caught fire, forcing officers to smother the flames with a blanket. He died in a Plano hospital four days later.
“We realize that a Taser can have some other implications, but we also know he had something in his hand," Sgt. VaNessa Harrison of APD said after the incident, which is still under investigation. “It’s unclear at this moment whether he became engulfed in flames from the gasoline and ignitable object he had in his hand or from the Taser.”
Bonus (Added July 31, 10:30 a.m.) — The Observer initially neglected to include the sad story of Daniel Vo and Thomas Kantzos. During 2012 and 2013, the FBI investigated Kantzos and Vo for tipping off their steroid dealer about an impending arrest. Shortly after the two officers were arrested, Vo committed suicide. Kantzos pleaded guilty to improperly using a department computer in October 2013 and was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison in February 2014.