Austin Police Chief ‘Sickened and Saddened’ at Arrest of Breaion King

The officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave.

July 22, 2016, 5:19 PM

— -- Two Austin Police Department officers are now under investigation after dash-cam video shows one of the officers throwing a black woman to the ground during a traffic stop. A second video taken from inside the police car after the woman was arrested shows another officer suggesting to the woman that black people have "violent tendencies" and that’s "why a lot of white people are afraid of them."

Although the incident occurred in June 2015, Austin's police chief Art Acevedo said that it only came to his attention on Tuesday, when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg called him and advised him that a reporter from the Austin American-Statesman was working on a story on the incident.

Video from the traffic stop, publicly released by police today, shows the woman, identified by police as 26-year-old Breaion King, stepping out of her car. An officer, identified as Austin officer Bryan Richter, then commands her to get back in her vehicle.

"Okay ma’am you’re being pulled over right now, so I need you to take a seat back in the car," Richter says.

“Are you serious?” King responds.

“Yes, ma’am, I’m not joking,” Richter replies. King appears to go back into her car, leaving the driver's door open.

Richter then tells King he needs to see her driver’s license and explains that she was stopped for speeding. He then asks her to put her feet in the car.

King asks Richter if he can "please hurry up," and Richter then tells her to "stand up" and he appears to try to pull her out of her car.

King starts screaming and says, “No! Why are you doing this to me? Oh my God!"

Richter tells her to "stop resisting" and an altercation ensues. He then yells, "Get out of the car!"

King responds, "I’m getting out, let me get out. Do not touch me."

Richter appears to forcibly pull King up and throw her down to the ground. On the ground, King yells, “Oh my God!” and Richter tells her she was "resisting."

Richter then appears to struggle handcuffing King, who asks him, "Why are you doing this to me?"

King attempts to stand up but Richter throws her back down to the ground before handcuffing her and escorting her into the police car.

On a different piece of video, inside the police car, King seems to calmly converse with another officer identified by police as Austin police officer Patrick Spradlin.

He asks King if she believes racism goes both ways, and she says, "I do," but "I believe that the Caucasian class has more supremacy over black people, just to be honest. They have more rights." She adds that a lot of people are “afraid of black people."

Spradlin then asks her why she thinks a lot of people are afraid of black people, and King replies, "That's what I want to clear out."

Spradlin then says, "I can give you a really good idea why it might be that way -- violent tendencies. And I want you to think about that. I'm not saying anything. I'm not saying it's true. I'm not saying I can prove it or nothing. But 99 percent of the time, when you hear about stuff like that, it's the black community that's being violent. That's why the white people are afraid, and I don't blame them."

He later adds, "By no means am I saying that there is no racism, because I know there is and everybody knows there is. Black people tend to be violent and that’s why a lot of white people are afraid, and I don’t blame them."

According to the police report, obtained by ABC affiliate KVUE, Richter wrote that he acted quickly because he "was increasingly concerned with King's "uncooperative attitude." He added that King "began reaching for the front passenger side of the vehicle." He noted that he was unaware if there was a weapon in the vehicle and that King resisted by pulling her arms away from him and wrapping “her hands and arms around the steering wheel.”

King told KVUE on Thursday that she was "genuinely fearful" for her life during the incident and that she "literally didn't understand what was happening."

She added that she wanted something done and that she had "become afraid of the people who are supposed to protect me and take care of me."

"If you’ve wronged someone and you haven’t been reprimanded, then how do you know that you’re wrong?” King asked.

At a news conference evening, Acevedo said his "heart was sickened and saddened" when he first learned about the two videos.

"First and foremost, let me just say this to Breaion King, her family, her friends, her neighbors, her supporters: 'I’m sorry that on the day that you were stopped for going 15 mph [above the speed limit], you were approached in a manner and then treated in a manner that is not consistent with the expectations of this police chief," Acevedo said. "There’s a way to do this job, and that day, we did not approach it anywhere near the way we should’ve approached it."

Acevedo said that "the chain of command" who reviewed Richter's use of force in the incident determined that "the incident was not consistent with the expectations of the department." Richter was told to attend training and counseling.

The chief added that the incident was never brought to his attention nor the attention of other executive members of the department and that an administrative inquiry has now been launched "into the chain of command decision-making process."

As for the second video showing Spradlin suggesting to King that black people have "violent tendencies," Acevedo claimed that the no one in the department had ever uncovered that video before until the District Attorney's Office brought it to the department's attention.

When asked by a reporter at the news conference if he thought Spradlin's comments were "racist," Acevedo replied, "Yes."

"This is not, I believe, reflective of the quality of this organization that we run," he said. "I want you to listen to that conversation and tell me that we don’t have social issues in this nation, issues of violence, issues of racism, issues of people being looked at differently because of their color."

The police chief said that his department has opened investigations into the incident and into the conduct of Richter and Spradlin. He added that both have been placed on paid administrative leave.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg has also requested the Austin Police Department's Special Investigations Unit to "conduct a criminal investigation of the arresting officer’s actions that are well documented on that video," so she can decide whether or not to present the case to a grand jury and decide whether Richter's conduct rises to a criminal offense," Acevedo said. He added that Lehmberg's office has since dropped the charges of resisting arrest against King.

King told ABC affiliate KVUE today that she appreciated the chief's public apology and that she believed what happened to her "is an opportunity to make things better and to change things for the better."

Breaion King, who was violently thrown to the ground by a white Austin, Texas, police officer during a traffic stop in 2015, speaks at a news conference, July 22, 2016, in Austin, Texas.
Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman via AP

An Austin Police Department public information officer referred ABC News' questions today to the Austin Police Association.

A representative from the Austin Police Association told ABC News it was not immediately clear if Richter and Spradlin "have obtained outside council but all officers are represented by the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT).

CLEAT did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for information. The Travis County District Attorney's Office also did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for additional information and comment.

The Austin Police Association's vice president, Anthony Nelson, added in a statement to ABC News that the association understood "the public’s reaction to Officer Richter’s response to resistance" and that the association believed "Officer Spradlin’s comments were wrong and not reflective of the values and beliefs of the men and women who serve this community."

"We recognize how incidents such as these can divide our city and cause mistrust," Nelson added. "We have met with community stakeholders and begun a dialogue. We hope that the conversation will lead to substantive changes that will help bridge that divide."