Little Rock police on Wednesday released videos of the arrest of a state representative who had been filming a traffic stop.
The department provided footage from dashboard cameras in four patrol cars involved in the encounter with state Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, on Monday. Officers reported that Walker, who is also a civil-rights attorney, was filming a traffic stop involving two black men when he and another Little Rock lawyer, Omavi Kushukuru, got too close to the scene and refused to back away.
Walker, 79, and Kushukuru, 29, were both charged with obstructing governmental operations, a misdemeanor. Police dropped the charge against Walker on Tuesday, and Police Chief Kenton Buckner wrote the state representative a letter of apology. Walker, in his own letter, rejected the apology.
Police said the case against Kushukuru will continue. His first court appearance was scheduled for Monday.
Walker and Kushukuru have not returned multiple calls seeking comment on the case.
The police videos released Wednesday provide new details of the dispute that led officers to arrest the men. The videos, each about an hour in length, show the encounter from its beginning, the traffic stop at Commerce and East Ninth streets, to its end, when Walker and Kushukuru arrive at the Pulaski County jail for booking.
The videos were released under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
In one of the videos, Walker can be heard off-camera talking to officer Jason Roberts, a downtown patrolman who was one of four officers who conducted the traffic stop. Shortly after Walker and Kushukuru arrive and start recording, Roberts asks Walker what he's doing. Walker identifies himself as a state representative and says Little Rock is his district.
"I'm just here as an observer," Walker says.
Roberts then tells Walker that he has a right to observe. He explains that four officers were on scene because he and officer Thomas Thompson, both veteran patrolmen, were training two rookie officers.
In the video, Walker can be heard saying that he intends to film every instance in which multiple police officers arrest a black man. He then references the Little Rock police killings of two black men, Eugene Ellison, 67, and Deon Williams, 26. Officers shot Ellison to death inside his apartment in 2010. Williams was carrying a handgun when he fled a traffic stop, and officers fatally shot him in 2013.
"There have been too many killings," Walker says in the video. "The killings on 12th Street. The killings on Asher Avenue."
Roberts, who is white, then accuses Walker of trying to provoke the police. He says in the video that officers did not know the race of the men they pulled over when they initiated the stop. In a police report, Walker's behavior is described as "antagonistic and provocative."
"You're the type of person that goes around and tries to exploit this to where it causes chaos and [stuff] like that," Roberts tells Walker in the video. "You're a race-baiter is what you are, OK? I'm just telling like it is, Mr. Walker."
Thompson, who is white, can then be heard asking Walker if he would've stopped to film the police that morning if officers had pulled over a white person.
"I don't know," Walker says.
Police arrested Cedric Bell, 27, and Gary Gregory, 24, in the traffic stop Monday. Bell had been driving without a license and was wanted in a theft case, according to police. Gregory had been wanted on a charge of failure to appear.
Police video shows Bell being handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car. Walker, as he records the arrest, can be heard off-camera saying, "I'm just trying to make sure they don't kill you." Officers noted the remark in a police report.
In the video, Bell replies, "I appreciate that."
Several minutes later, Kushukuru can be seen walking between Roberts' patrol car and Bell's car, as officers stated in their report. The footage shows that Roberts told Kushukuru to back away at least six times before he arrested Kushukuru.
"I'm not being arrested," Kushukuru tells Roberts.
"Yes, you are," Roberts replies.
Walker, cellphone in hand, can then be seen approaching the driver's side of Bell's vehicle. He walks around the front of the vehicle and onto the sidewalk. Thompson then arrests him.
In the video, Walker repeatedly tells officers that he did not interfere with the traffic stop.
"I walked up on the street and I was standing on the sidewalk," he says after being handcuffed.
Officers reported that Walker, as he was being booked in the Pulaski County jail, said he only wanted to file complaints against the white officers involved in the arrest. Police video shows one of the four officers on scene when the encounter began is black.
"Oh, my God," the officer says after Walker and Kushukuru are arrested. "This is the thing, right? In the wake of all that's going on, people have their own opinions on what..."
The officer, a woman, stops talking when Thompson calls to her off-camera. She and Thompson then place a handcuffed Walker in view of the dashboard camera and search the state representative's pockets.
Buckner wrote in his letter to Walker that he had reviewed the case, spoken to a city attorney and determined that Walker shouldn't have been arrested. Buckner wrote that Walker will be reimbursed $1,000 he posted for bond after being booked in jail. Additionally, Buckner said police will review the case for training purposes.
Walker, in response, wrote to Buckner and City Manager Bruce Moore, both of whom are black, that the actions of police have a "grave negative impact on the Little Rock black community's relationship with the LRPD."
"I appreciate your effort to address the matter by providing further training to your officers," Walker wrote. "However, you must also recognize the issue of racial bias that is pervasive in some quarters of the police department."
Little Rock police said an internal investigation of the arrest is ongoing. The officers involved in the arrest remained on duty Wednesday.
Since opening his law firm in Little Rock in 1965, Walker has won numerous federal civil-rights lawsuits against Arkansas businesses and state agencies on claims of unfair and discriminatory practices. Walker also sued the Pulaski County, Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts over segregation.
In 1989, Pine Bluff police arrested Walker after he stopped to watch a traffic stop involving young black men and white officers. A charge of obstructing governmental operations against Walker was later dropped.
Walker was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2011. He and Rep. Richard Womack, R-Arkadelphia, co-sponsored a bill that states that residents have a right to film or photograph in public spaces, and that public officials may not interfere with such activity. Arkansas passed the bill into law last year.
The Little Rock Police Department has no written protocol governing officer interaction with people filming police.
Metro on 09/29/2016