Police in Texas have received criticism after arresting an 18-year-old for walking in the street to avoid icy pavements as he made his way home from work.
Rodney Reese was walking home from a shift at Walmart in Plano, Texas, last Tuesday, February 16, when police approached him to conduct a welfare check.
The officers tracked down Reese after a concerned citizen called to say a Black male wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt was stumbling along in the icy conditions, which stemmed from the Arctic cold snap that hit the state last month.
You can watch video footage of the encounter below:
Reese, who lives just a few blocks away from the Walmart with his mum, repeatedly told officers he was fine, but they continued to pursue him down the road.
Bodycam footage released by the police department on Facebook showed Reese telling the officers that he was on the way home, to which one officer responded: ‘Alright, but you’re walking in the middle of the road.’
The 18-year-old replied: ‘I understand that. My bad.’
Despite being called for a welfare check, officers continued to follow Reese for two minutes and 17 seconds, after which he was placed in handcuffs, charged with being a pedestrian in the roadway and forced to spend the night in jail.
In an interview with Fox News, Reese said the police ‘just treated me like I was a criminal or something’.
He explained he was walking in the road to avoid the area to the side of it, which was covered in snow and ice, and he continued walking away from the police because he didn’t need any help.
Reese commented: ‘Just a simple encounter. A simple encounter. That’s why I tried to dodge it, so I could make it home, I don’t know.’
The 18-year-old expressed belief that he was arrested because he is Black, saying:
Just ‘cause I’m Black, that’s it. It’s ‘cause I’m Black, I fit a description. It hurts, man. I don’t even think the call would’ve happened [if I wasn’t Black]. Honestly, I really don’t.
Plano Police Chief Ed Drain backed his officers for checking on Reese, though he announced he’s dropping the charge against Reese because it doesn’t fit what officers were called to investigate.
There’s a lot of information that we know about this case that we didn’t know at the time. Those officers didn’t know his age. They didn’t know he was 18. They didn’t know he worked at Walmart. They didn’t know where he lived.
They should’ve taken him home, is where he should’ve gone.
After the bodycam footage of the encounter was shared online, the police came under fire from social media users criticising the officers for the way they treated Reese.
Drain doesn’t believe race was a factor in the arrest, but the Plano police department is now set to determine whether an internal investigation is warranted.