Dash cam footage from the June 2015 arrest of a black elementary school teacher in Austin was released this week, and it paints a deeply disturbing picture of the day's events. In the footage, Officer Bryan Richter, who is white, is seen pulling 26-year-old Breaion King out of her vehicle and hurling her to the ground twice. A second white police officer, Patrick Spradlin, is later heard telling King as he drives her to jail that black people have "violent tendencies."
In the video, first obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, Richter approaches King's Nissan, which is parked at a fast-food restaurant, to presumably write her a ticket for speeding. In his report, he said he clocked her going 50 mph in a 35 mph zone.
After Richter tells her to get back inside her car so he can close the door, King asks him, "Can you please hurry up?" Richter then appears to change his mind and tells her instead to stand up. Within seconds, without giving her a chance to exit on her own, he grabs her and attempts to pull her out of her Nissan. The struggle causes the horn to blare.
"Why are you touching me?" she exclaims, leaning back into her car. He tells her to stop resisting several times before yanking her out and hurling her across the pavement. The two struggle on the ground as Richter tries to pull her hands behind her back. "Why are you doing this to me?" King asks, distressed.
The officer is seen throwing King to the ground a second time.
In a second dash cam video, officer Spradlin engages King in conversation. He asks King why "so many people are afraid of black people."
She replies, "That's what I want to figure out, because I'm not a bad black person."
Spradlin tells her it's because the black community is known for being violent. "That's why a lot of the white people are afraid, and I don't blame them. There are some guys I look at, and I know it is my job to deal with them, and I know it might go ugly, but that's the way it goes," he says. "But yeah, some of them, because of their appearance and whatnot, some of them are very intimidating."
King, who suffered minor scrapes and bruises from the incident, was charged with resisting arrest, but the case was dismissed after the Travis County district attorney saw the dash cam footage.
"After reviewing both videos, I and our leadership team were highly disturbed and disappointed in both the way Ms. King was approached and handled and in the mindset that we saw on display in those videos," Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told Austin American-Statesman. "But there is another piece, which has caused concerns as to our review process and the systems we have in place."
While an internal investigation into the actions of the officers has been opened, Acevedo said they won't receive more than a written reprimand because the incident took place more than six months ago. King is considering filing a lawsuit against Richter and the Austin Police Department.
When asked if he believed Spradlin's statements were racist, Acevedo said, "Yes. I can't denounce what he had to say any stronger."
Andrea Ritchie is a Soros Justice Fellow and attorney who has studied police violence against women and LGBT people of color for two decades. She tells Broadly that, while Acevedo's response has been better than most police departments who've dealt with accusations of misconduct, "it doesn't change the way [King] was treated, nor does it change the clear motivations for why she was treated that way."
What's striking about this case, Ritchie says, is how frank the officer was in his conversation with King. "The officer admitted on camera that they perceive black people, including black women, to have violent tendencies just purely by virtue of being black and their racist perceptions."
She draws a comparison to the case of Sandra Bland, who died in police custody last year in Texas after a similar traffic stop turned violent. In Bland's case, the encounter escalated when she asked one question: "Why do I have to put out my cigarette?"
Here, the situation intensified after King asked the officer to "please hurry up."
"There was nothing about [King's] response that warranted being thrown around like a rag doll, threatened to be tased and verbally abused in the way that she was," Ritchie says. "The response was zero to 1000 because black women are expected to behave in ways that are submissive and mammy-like, and when you ask one question that's perceived to deviate from that, this is the punishment that you get."