New England Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts planned to file a formal complaint with Texas prosecutors Friday, alleging mistreatment during a March 10 traffic stop that played out in his driveway in Richmond, Texas, his lawyer said.
Jennine Hovell-Cox, an attorney for Roberts, said in a telephone interview that she planned to file a “public integrity complaint” on her client’s behalf with the Fort Bend County, Texas, district attorney’s office.
Roberts, 25, filed a citizen complaint 10 days after the incident with the Fort Bend County sheriff’s office. But the sheriff’s office deemed his complaint “not sustained,” records show. The traffic stop was first reported by USA Today.
During a news conference Friday afternoon, Sheriff Troy E. Nehls told reporters that “some of you in this room are trying to make this a racial issue, and it is not.” He said Fort Bend “is the most diverse county in the entire country. We are successful . . . in dealing with the citizens we serve because of the relationships we have built with that diversity. The public trusts us and we trust them.”
Nehls’s office also released the dashboard camera footage from the incident.
In the clip, Roberts is seen slowly exiting his vehicle in his driveway as the deputy says, “Get back in the car. Get back in the car.”
His hands raised, Roberts says, “This is my house,” and the deputy again tells him to “get in the car, right now.” As Roberts sits back down in the vehicle, the deputy says, “Shut the door. Put the hands on the steering wheel, and roll down the window. Do it now.”
The deputy can later be heard saying, “I haven’t even begun the traffic stop. He got, the big black man, when he got out of the car I told him to get back in. He wouldn’t comply. I had to yell at him pretty hard.”
Once backup units arrive, the deputy walks to the driver’s side of Roberts’s vehicle and tells him, “Put your hands on top of the steering wheel. . . . The reason why you’re stopped is because you were going 59 in a 35.”
He later then asks Roberts for his license and proof of insurance, which Roberts says he can’t locate. The deputy informs him that he’ll be cited for speeding and failure to provide proof of insurance.
Nehls said Friday that the citation was changed to a warning, and that he “apologized to Mr. Roberts for the length of the traffic stop.” The sheriff said the stop “wasn’t as professional as it should have been . . . We’re better than that.”
Asked during the news conference why the deputy referred to Roberts as a “big black man,” Nehls pointed to his patrol captain and said, “This here is a large white man.” Regarding Roberts, Nehls said, “He is a large man. He is a large black male.”
Roberts wrote in his citizen complaint that a sheriff’s deputy “started following me” as he drove on Pitts Road in Richmond around 9:55 p.m. on March 10.
“I came onto . . . [a] stop sign and the officer was still following me,” Roberts wrote. “As I turn into my community of Pecan Grove the officer was still behind me, and then as I’m almost to the driveway of my home, he turned his light on me.”
At the time, Roberts wrote, “I did not know why I was getting pulled over. So I got out of my car with my hand[s] up. Then the officer told me to get back in the car and put my hands on the steering wheel. He told my wife [when she came outside] to get back in the house before he arrest[s] her.”
An official from Nehls’s office said during Friday’s news conference that he did not approve of the deputy, who had four months “on the road” at the time of the stop, “yelling” at Roberts’s wife.
Roberts wrote that he sat in his car for about 10 minutes without being informed what was going on. Then, he wrote, four more officers arrived, and the deputy who initially stopped him returned to his vehicle and informed him he was speeding.
“Which I wasn’t,” Roberts wrote, adding that the deputy “gave me a hard time for insurance.” He added that he felt “so harassed I couldn’t even remember where my insurance paper was in my car. [B]ut why wouldn’t I have insurance on [a Porsche]? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Roberts and his wife, he wrote, were “embarrassed and harassed in our own community and in front of our home where we are supposed to feel safe.”
“Had my client not maintained his composure during that stop, it could have taken another turn,” Hovell-Cox said, adding that Roberts’s citation for speeding was quickly withdrawn.
Fort Bend District Attorney Brian M. Middleton’s office said Friday in a statement if Roberts “files a formal criminal complaint, the matter will be referred to the Texas Rangers for an independent investigation.”
The district attorney said this is part of the protocol for reviewing such cases.
“This is the normal process to provide an unbiased and independent investigation when it involves a member of the law enforcement community,” Middleton said. “We will consider the Ranger’s recommendation if, and when, any investigation concludes, but it is premature and improper for me to speculate on that at this time.”