The same Balch Springs, Texas police department that shot and killed an unarmed, black 15-year-old has been filmed using a taser on a handcuffed black man.
On April 29, Balch Springs Police officer Roy Oliver allegedly shot and killed Jordan Edwards, a high school freshman, as the boy and his friends drove away from a party. The police department initially issued a public statement claiming Oliver fired in self-defense after the teenagers reversed toward him “in an aggressive manner.”
After reviewing body camera footage from the killing, police admitted that the teenagers had been driving away from police when Oliver fired the fatal shot. Oliver was dismissed from the force and charged with murder.
But now, two weeks after Edwards’ death, another body camera video evidently depicting excessive force by a white Balch Springs officer against a black man has been released to Dallas’s Fox 4 News. And unlike in Oliver’s case, an internal investigation found no fault with the officer’s actions.
On April 28, 2016, Balch Springs police responded to a call of a man waving a gun, Fox 4 reported. When officers arrived on the scene, they found Marco Stephenson, now 39, holding a BB gun.
The body camera footage begins as a Balch Springs officer exits his squad car, his gun pointed at Stephenson, who is already kneeling with his hands on his head. An unnamed sergeant is already on the scene, pointing a gun at Stephenson. The sergeant kicks Stephenson’s BB gun, which was lying on the sidewalk.
Stephenson appears to comply as three officers arrest him, and does not resist as the officers place handcuffs on him. Stephenson tells officers he plans on spitting out a toothpick. While his face is not visible in the footage, he appears be standing calmly, with his hands cuffed behind his back. But the sergeant who kicked his BB gun immediately pulls out a taser and fires it into Stephenson’s abdomen.
Stephenson is seen shouting and collapsing. While Stephenson is still lying on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back and an officer pinning him down, the officer with the taser shocks him a second time. “Don’t pull away. Do you understand? Do you understand?” an officer asks Stephenson. “Don’t pull away. Do you get it? Do you get it?”
Stephenson still does not appear to resist officers. “Yes sir,” he says.
“Are you going to straighten up?” the officer asks. “Cause I ain’t playing with you today. Do you understand?
“Yes sir,” Stephenson repeats.
In a statement, the Balch Springs Police Department said the sergeant, whom Fox 4 reported was a supervising officer, had been cleared of wrongdoing.
“Balch Springs PD is aware of the incident that occurred in 2016. The video was reviewed by the Texas Ranger Division which is the highest and most prestigious law enforcement agency in Texas,” the department wrote in a statement. “It was determined charges would not be filed against the Balch Springs police officer after the video was reviewed by an independent agency and an internal review was conducted.”
The police department did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for further information.
The investigation may have been the only reason a leaker was able to obtain a copy of the 2016 body camera footage, which an anonymous person sent Fox 4 in the mail. When the Balch Springs Police Department began using body cameras in January 2015, the department announced that it would be storing footage for 90 days, unless the footage was under investigation.
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber told Fox 4 that officers brought the incident to his attention in its immediate aftermath, but that Stephenson never filed a complaint with the department.
But at the time of his arrest, Stephenson was already taking action against a nearby police department for a startlingly similar case of alleged excessive force.
In a March 2015 lawsuit reviewed by The Daily Beast, Stephenson accused the nearby Dallas Police Department of aggressively arresting him for driving while intoxicated. Police lacked probable cause for the arrest, and Stephenson’s toxicology test revealed him to have been sober, he claimed in the lawsuit.
A Dallas Police officer “ordered him to get face down on the ground… with his taser pointed at Plaintiff’s chest, ” Stephenson’s lawyers alleged in his suit. “Plaintiff complied calmly, without sudden movements, and without protest. As soon as Mr. Stephenson complied, [an officer], with great force and without justification, pushed his face down and into the pavement. [Another officer] immediately pushed Mr. Stephenson’s back down while grabbing his right arm back and up behind his back.”
The lawsuit, filed over two years ago, is still ongoing, and would have been active for over a year when Balch Springs police arrested Stephenson, possibly explaining his decision not to file a new complaint.
In its statement, the Balch Springs Police Department said it was aware that the footage of Stephenson’s arrest was particularly inflammatory in the wake of Jordan Edwards’ death.
“With recent events we understand we are under the microscope of the public eye, and that is why we will continue to serve our community as we have done in the past,” the department wrote. “We understand people are upset and angry from the video that occurred in 2016, and we have made changes and corrections to better serve our community.”