McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamra
Waco – When David Montgomery, 29, saw the headlights fly up on his rear bumper, he had no way of knowing he was followed by a McLennan County patrol unit.
It was a dark night in April, 2014, he was driving down a lonely gravel road in rural country, and he was taking no chances. People come to grief on these rural roads.
A younger sister of his had in the recent past sustained a gunshot wound from a .223 caliber round that penetrated the door of a pickup truck, traveled through and through her right thigh, and wound up in the calf of her left leg.
When aggressive drivers show up on a rear bumper burning their high beams on the back of your neck in McLennan County, Texas, it’s no time to stop and talk it over.
Montgomery poured on the coal, found a place to pull over, and killed his headlights. Then he turned on his “KC” grill-mounted lights so he could be seen from in front, but not from behind, and hit the gas.
It was then, and only then, that Deputy Ewing turned on his emergency flashing lights. Seeing he was pursued by a police officer, Montgomery became obedient; he pulled over immediately at Ewing’s direction.
Because the deputy did not activate his emergency lights, there was no video of the original portion of his pursuit. The video that finally emerged showed only the part where Montgomery pulled over after Ewing turned on the flashing lights.
The deputy arrested Montgomery for reckless driving, but said all along he could have charged him with the more serious offense of evading arrest.
That’s the offense McLennan County Sgt. Chris Eubank charged a black man with in east Waco in March, 2015, after he pursued him with no emergency lights at speeds of more than 80 miles per hour through city streets, according to an investigation by the Waco Police Department. The man finally crashed his car, flipping it. The impact of the car striking a curb, clipping a light pole, and flipping “at least once,” according to another deputy who witnessed the accident, ejected the passenger from the vehicle. He sustained a serious head injury.
Similarly, in that case, there is no video of Eubank’s original chase, but the Sheriff’s Office has declined to release a dashcam video made by another officer who turned on his lights before the driver of the suspect vehicle crashed and flipped the car he was driving.
In an affidavit of probable cause for an arrest warrant, an investigator showed no real probable cause for the pursuit, and no real evidence of evasion of arrest. He merely stated that the car was traveling at a high rate of speed and was “all over the road.” The judge signed the warrant, anyway. It is dated “the 15 day of 2015,” and the man is charged with felony evasion of arrest.
That is all part of a huge ongoing dispute between the Waco Police and the Sheriff’s Office. Eubank has lied, both in person, and in a memo sent to an Assistant Chief of Police, claiming he was not in pursuit of the vehicle, when the truth is, he was heard on an audio saying the suspect vehicle was running from him.
In a dashcam video made of the accident investigation, one Waco police officer is heard telling another that Sheriff’s Officers had “said earlier they were coming over here (east Waco) to stir up some shit.”
But Johnathan Montgomery got no points for being white while driving in the country. He made 12 pre-trial appearances spread over a period of one year, spent $1,800 in attorney’s fees and bond payments, and finally stood trial before jurors who deliberated for a mere 10 minutes before they returned a verdict of not guilty.
A member of his family, who, fearing retaliation, requested anonymity, said “The DA kept repeating to the jury that reckless driving was punishable for up to three years in jail – ugh- they made me so angry.
“The DA offered several times to dismiss the charge, but they wanted him to sign a statement basically saying he was guilty of something else. It was all bullshit and our taxpayers’ dollars funded it.”
So it cost Johnathan Montgomery and his family considerable cash, time, and stress – to avoid pleading guilty to something that not only he didn’t do, but no one else did, either, because, basically, it never happened. A Sheriff’s patrol officer violated state police procedure by failing to activate his emergency flashing lights and starting his video dashcam recorder when in pursuit of the driver of a vehicle he suspects of suspicious activity.
By violating that simple, common sense policy, he alarmed the driver he was aiming to stop, the driver fled, and he then arrested him for something he provoked in the first place.
The jurors got it, if the DA didn’t. Case closed.
So mote it be.
– The Legendary