This Police Accountability Report examines why the police continue to use force when no crime was committed. Chad Wilkins–who was depressed from a recent divorce and had threatened to hurt himself–told the McKinney, Texas police he didn’t need their help anymore. They tasered him twice, causing long-term injuries.
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TAYA GRAHAM: Hello. My name is Taya Graham. And welcome to the Police Accountability Report.
As we always say, the show has a single purpose: Holding the country’s massive law enforcement industrial complex accountable, and it’s not an easy task. Truthfully, the mainstream media tends to embrace the idea that police are the last bastion between us and an otherwise lawless society, but I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please share it with us and we might be able to investigate. Please reach out to us.
You can email us tips privately at PAR@TheRealNews.com, and share your evidence of police misconduct. You can also message us at Police Accountability Report on Facebook or Instagram, or @eyesonpolice, on Twitter, or of course you can message me directly at@tayasbaltimore on Twitter or Facebook, and please like and comment. I do read your comments and appreciate them.
Now, what that warped social ideology ignores is how much American law enforcement is focused on enforcing class and racial boundaries. It’s a thick blue line that bolsters socially destructive medieval drug laws, turns routine traffic stops into death sentences, and confiscates property without due process of law. Think about it, American police arrest over 1.3 million people a year for simple possession of narcotics, including marijuana. Hundreds of millions of dollars squandered solely to deny the civil rights of citizens with no productive end. Meanwhile, residential burglaries are solved at rate of 20% nationally.
Stephen, what’s going on here?
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STEPHEN JANIS: Well, you mentioned a good point. Because we’re always talking here about why police are not really doing community style policing or why they’re not investing in the community, and I think the main corrupter that you just mentioned is the war on drugs. Now you say, why would that be? We talk about the war on drugs, what we don’t understand is that from that has evolved a philosophy of policing that’s very, very unusual, and it’s this idea that a crime is committed in proximity to the object. In other words, if a pile of crack fell down from the ceiling right now, regardless of our relation to it, people could arrest us, incarcerate us for tens of years, take away our property, take away our civil rights.
And that idea–that idea of proximity to the object; that idea the object somehow infers criminality–has been used to turn policing from something that we would think would be to investigate crimes or to prevent crimes into something that has become a political instrument. And that’s a key thing to remember: That this sort of psychology of using something, a crime that really isn’t a crime in a sense, to prosecute policing has turned into something entirely different than what we think policing should be about, especially when it comes to working with the community.
TAYA GRAHAM: That’s a good point. Now, today we’re going to explore a question that rarely gets the attention it merits but is inextricably linked to the type of psychological policing we’re talking about. Why are the police so quick to use force even when there’s no evidence of crime? It’s an issue that has been front and center of the national debate since the death of Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.
But truthfully, it’s a problem that has much to do with the true imperative of policing. Why should anyone die during a police encounter, regardless of the reason? And why do so many of the encounters that turn deadly seem to involve unremarkable and routine behaviors? And why do so many wellness checks go horribly wrong? Think about it. Just on this show alone, we’ve reported on people who have died for riding on a bike, playing video games in their own home, and simply walking down the street, all of them normal activities and none of them a threat to public safety or even remotely criminal.
And yet, each one of these cases was somehow escalated to the point where officers used deadly force. So the reason we’re discussing this topic today is because of you, one of our viewers who shared an example of how police often misapply force. The video we’re showing you now depicts the arrest of Chad Wilkins in Richardson, Texas. Wilkins was experiencing a mental health crisis when a relative called police, but instead of offering assistance, this happened, a brutal take down.
Wilkins hit the ground so hard he blacked out for days. He was tasered twice and suffered a severe concussion as well as injuries to his head and body that continue to hinder him even now, and worse yet he was charged with assaulting a police officer, a charge he fought and eventually beat. But it is the ordeal itself that will be the topic of our discussion. The fact that like many of our fellow citizens, Wilkins needed help and instead was offered a brutal arrest.
To discuss his encounter with the police and the ramifications for him, Chad joins us from Texas. Hello, Chad. Thank you so much for joining us.
CHAD WILKINS: Hey. How are y’all doing?
TAYA GRAHAM: Good, thank you. Now first, can you tell us what are we witnessing in this video?
CHAD WILKINS: Pretty much it’s the McKinney police being called to help me. Pretty much, I had a bad point in my life and thought I wanted to end my life, changed my mind, went back home, and the police happened to greet me there trying to help me. They helped.
TAYA GRAHAM: Wow.
STEPHEN JANIS: That’s one way to put it.
TAYA GRAHAM: That’s certainly one way to put it. Now, you already had an underlying health condition of a heart murmur, and the police tasered you twice. Can you talk about the extent of your injuries?
CHAD WILKINS: The taser part, I mean I don’t remember much of the incident by any means at all. It was actually two hours that I ended up blacking out over the ordeal and came back. And pretty much my hand, it took about a year for my hand to heal, and probably about two years for my brain to start functioning normally again. So things that I used to be able to do before the incident, I couldn’t just sit down and do anymore because it was hard to focus and whatnot.
STEPHEN JANIS: There’s a critical part in the video, Chad, where, you know, the officers tried to say that you were striking them, and that’s why they used force. Can you just explain what actually happened, so we understand?
CHAD WILKINS: From all the… As I said, I don’t know in the video, I didn’t know till six months after when I actually got to start reviewing the video myself. Even after open records request and everything, they denied me seeing my own video.
STEPHEN JANIS: Really.
TAYA GRAHAM: Wow.
CHAD WILKINS: Basically from what I can tell, and I know me, I was pretty much blocking the punches that he was trying to throw at me. And as I… the more I watched it, I realized every hit he’s trying to throw, I’m trying to block as much as possible.
STEPHEN JANIS: Do you know why did they start to escalate to force? Is there anything that you think might have… Why did that happen?
CHAD WILKINS: I told the cop I don’t want his help.
TAYA GRAHAM: That was it.
CHAD WILKINS: Yeah, pretty much. Told him to leave me alone, I’m trying to walk into my house, and he wasn’t having it.
TAYA GRAHAM: Chad, if you don’t mind me getting a little bit more personal, can you tell us why the police were called?
CHAD WILKINS: It was a suicide check. Pretty much, I was in a bad state of mind. Never… Not normally that way. I was just going through a bad time in my life, and felt that I might want to end it, and decided not to. And unfortunately when I came back to my house, that was what I came up with. And out of all that help they wanted to give me, it took two and a half years of fighting it just to get it reduced to a resisting arrest, which shows there was no crime committed.
TAYA GRAHAM: You know, Chad, how would you have hoped the police would have responded to a concern that someone might harm themselves? What do you wish they’d have done?
CHAD WILKINS: Talked and actually asked me what’s going on. Talking solves a lot of issues. So deescalate, don’t escalate. When you start hitting and trying to take people down to the ground because you’re trying to help them, you need to reconsider what your morals and ethics of helping people are.
TAYA GRAHAM: Now, you mentioned the charges. So what did they charge you with and what finally happened? How was it resolved?
CHAD WILKINS: They charged me with assault. Six months later they finally did the indictment. The first lawyer, I went through three lawyers total, four, if you include myself representing for about two or three months.
TAYA GRAHAM: Wow.
CHAD WILKINS: I reached out for a lawyer and found it’s $15,000 out of pocket to even obtain one. So the first lawyer was court appointed. He dropped me within, I think, two times of going to the court house. He dropped me as being his lawyer, pretty much. He threw his hands in the air when I wouldn’t sign the plea deal without me seeing the video yet. I’d never even seen the video [crosstalk 00:08:34].
STEPHEN JANIS: Oh, so they, they didn’t give you the video, and they wanted you to sign a plea deal, and you hadn’t even seen the video. [crosstalk 00:08:39]. Because I mean, basically you didn’t know the evidence at that point.
CHAD WILKINS: No, I had no clue whatsoever. He’s like, “Sign here.”
STEPHEN JANIS: Oh my god.
CHAD WILKINS: Yeah. That was an ordeal just getting him to say, “Hey, I’m not signing this.” So the second lawyer, she helped me out, supposedly. At first, I thought she was meaning the best for me. But then I realized after studying law myself this whole time, and doing all the open record requests myself, and finding out this officer had an assault the day before, an assault 15 days later on other people he was helping that I realized that she wasn’t doing her job, and she hadn’t even filed a single motion in the year and a half she’d been on the case.
TAYA GRAHAM: Interesting. That’s incredible.
CHAD WILKINS: So I actually went and filed my own motions. And after her telling me she’s not going to drop me, she’s going to fight this for me in trial, she dropped me.
STEPHEN JANIS: So you were on your own then?
TAYA GRAHAM: So you were really on your own.
CHAD WILKINS: Yes, yeah. So when she dropped me, the judge was like, “All right, let’s have a hearing this week.” And I’m like, “Your Honor, as my new… as me being my own lawyer, I have 30 days by law to be able to study up on the case and get all the evidence. I haven’t even seen everything yet. Y’all haven’t allowed me to see everything after two years now.” So finally, I realized they’re playing hard ball.
Once they showed me the evidence, they allowed me to come in and see it, they wouldn’t give it to me like the other lawyers to actually sit down and study. I was allotted a day to come look at it and take notes. Pretty much, I was lucky enough to have a friend who has a lawyer up in the Collin County area where this court case was going to be and took the case for $5,000 out of pocket, which I went ahead and did. And if I wouldn’t have had the money, I would have been out of luck.
TAYA GRAHAM: Absolutely.
CHAD WILKINS: I went ahead and did that, and we went to two court hearings. He filed about three or four motions. And you can see this all online that the motions started being filed. After about two and a half years roughly is when truly all the motions went into play. And basically, it was dropped the second time I went to the court house. He’s like, “Here, let’s run down here and get this judge to sign off of it, and we’ll get you out of here right now.” So I didn’t want to plea, but they gave me a resisting arrest, time served. No probation, no nothing, which if I really assaulted an officer, I don’t think I would have ever gotten that.
TAYA GRAHAM: Absolutely. I agree with you on that. And let me ask you, having this resisting arrest on a record, does this affect you now?
CHAD WILKINS: I have tried to rent an apartment and denied. As far as jobs go, really haven’t tried on that aspect. I’ve been more self-employed myself most of my life already. But I know with what I do in IT that it’s not going to pass. But I handle people’s personal data all the time and never, never have I broken the ethics rule of releasing data or anything else like that. It’s just, I know with that kind of background check you don’t get hired in the IT field.
TAYA GRAHAM: Right. Let me ask you one last question. How does this affect how you and your family interact with the police now? I know you mentioned to me that you and your son actually witnessed acts of police violence.
CHAD WILKINS: So my son, during the midst of all the court case stuff and whatnot we were at a gas station, and he was probably about nine or 10 when this happened, and I’m outside waiting for him. He was just running in and getting a drink and this in McKinney, Lake Forest and 380. Pretty much I hear, “Get on the ground, get on the ground,” and look around the corner and I see a cop pointing a gun toward a guy in a truck that had just pulled in there. And the problem was he was aiming the gun towards the inside of the store where my child was.
STEPHEN JANIS: Oh my god.
TAYA GRAHAM: Of course, that’s really frightening.
STEPHEN JANIS: So I’m like, “Well, what is going on?” I run inside and told my child to take cover behind an aisle, and pretty much film what’s left of it after they had the guy on the ground and come around from the back of the truck where he was aiming the gun toward the inside of the store. And there was two cops aiming guns, but one pointed toward the direction of the store. We asked the chief of police; he said he didn’t want to respond to it. Since it didn’t go viral, he had no reason to.
And just the other day I was here in Plano and walking into the store, and now my youngest is now 12. And pow, pow, pow, pow. I’m like, “Run inside! Run inside!” And sure enough when we come out about 30 minutes later, I go ahead and go down the road where I had seen the police going right as I heard the gunshots. A Plano police officer had shot a man that was wielding a knife. That man, they didn’t give them any chances before they actually shot him, from what one of the local residents said that was there and witnessed it.
TAYA GRAHAM: After your son has seen this kind of police violence and then seen how you were affected, I mean doesn’t this affect how your family views the criminal justice system now?
CHAD WILKINS: My father actually went to a jury duty not too long ago and they asked him if he trusts police. And he always has, that’s why they called him to begin with. And he said he can’t ever trust the police officer anymore. So my mom, she feels bad that they called. They didn’t think that would ever happen for calling the police, and my brother the same thing. They all called thinking they were helping me, and they realize that’s not the case. So unfortunately, my family has a completely different outlook on it, and pretty much everybody around me has a different outlook on it.
TAYA GRAHAM: Well, Chad, we want to thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your personal story with us. And we really appreciate you being so open and honest about what happened to you. Thank you.
STEPHEN JANIS: Thank you, Chad. We appreciate it. And we’re going to keep following up on this story.
TAYA GRAHAM: Right. We’re going to keep our eye on the area of Richardson, Texas because there was just a… What happened to–
STEPHEN JANIS: Yeah, we had another viewer who sent us a video of a bad arrest. So Richardson seems to be a hotspot for police issues.
TAYA GRAHAM: Yeah, it really does. So let me make an important point. Mental illness is not a crime. In fact, it’s a disease. So why does our massive criminal justice industrial complex often treat it as such? I mean, as we just heard, it was clear Wilkins needed help, not to take down. He was a person in need, not a threat. But as so often is the case our inflexible and perhaps ill-equipped police state reacts with violence to administer cruelty. And once again another innocent person suffers.
But while retribution and punishment against civilians is always swift and certain, as we see in our next story, police almost always get the benefit of the doubt. Baltimore police officer Michael Gentil was driving to work when he nearly hit a pedestrian. Believing that the person who almost collided with his car had tossed a drink on his vehicle, Gentil jumped out to confront him. Drawing his gun, Gentil ordered Kevon Miller to the ground. Then he called him the N word and stomped on his head.
KEVON MILLER: He called me a fucking nigger. He’s like, “No.” He said, “You stupid fucking nigger,” as he was pointing the gun on me. So again, he only said that one time, but he called a slew of other slurs like “asshole, dumb ass,” whatever he could. That’s what he called me. He made sure. He made sure that I knew that I was–let’s say–less than him, in a way.
TAYA GRAHAM: Officer Gentil was convicted of first degree assault and committing a felony while in possession of a handgun. But it’s what happened during the sentencing that caught our attention. Stephen, the judge made a very unusual ruling. Can you talk a little bit about it?
STEPHEN JANIS: Well, during the sentencing there’s a mandatory minimum on this type of crime. Five years, right. And so during the sentencing, the judge had a motion from Gentil’s lawyer who said, “Can you give him a bond during his appeal?” Now the judge said during this hearing, “Well, I don’t think the appeal is going to succeed, but I’ll give you a bond.” What it effectively means is that Officer Gentil will be on home detention instead of serving his time in prison, and he’ll get credit for time served. So during the process of appeal, he’ll be at home and probably it could take a couple of years and probably be able to avoid jail altogether.
TAYA GRAHAM: So doesn’t the appeal process, can’t that take years?
STEPHEN JANIS: Yes.
TAYA GRAHAM: Does that mean he could possibly serve his entire time at home because it’ll be time served.
STEPHEN JANIS: Given how long it takes to file an appeal with [inaudible 00:17:50] court, yes, it could take… He could literally probably be done with his sentence from home, which is not offered to anybody else.
TAYA GRAHAM: Now didn’t the prosecutor actually recommend that he have 10 years, but suspend four of them?
STEPHEN JANIS: Yeah. I think he actually said 10 years suspended six. [crosstalk 00:18:06]. So he was asking for four. Well, actually I’m not sure, but it was around there somewhere between four and six. So yeah, the prosecutor was asking for prison time because the law dictates if you commit a crime of violence while using your gun, you’re supposed to get a mandatory amount of it. You’re supposed to go to prison no matter what. And in this case, the officer was able to avoid it.
TAYA GRAHAM: After the ruling, we actually asked Kevon about the sentence, and he made an important point that needs to be repeated.
KEVON MILLER: I’ll go to jail and get a bond for the pettiest thing. I can jaywalk, and I’ll have to go to jail and get a bail. So, that’s the only thing I’m saying, the same thing to me. Again, I don’t want to see anybody go to jail. That’s like the worst thing. It’s jail, but everybody has to deal with the consequences. He assaulted me. He did something that he knew he was not supposed to do under the cover of that shield and now he got to deal with the consequences. If it was me in his position, I wouldn’t have any of those liberties.
TAYA GRAHAM: Here’s the thing. Mandatory minimum sentencing, which is often touted as the ultimate tough on crime law, is both inflexible and ineffective. That’s in part why the judge made such an unusual decision to grant the officer home detention. But the problem is in this case, that type of flexibility is applied only to cops. As Kevon pointed out, for the average civilian no such accommodation exists. In fact, Stephen, mandatory minimum sentences were embraced by our city council, right?
STEPHEN JANIS: Yeah. They just had a big debate about this because people say the same thing that happened in this trial. It leaves a judge with no options, and it’s very inflexible.
TAYA GRAHAM: No discretion.
STEPHEN JANIS: So people just end up going to jail in cases where they shouldn’t go to jail. But the council embraced it. Now the law was a little different, it’s for the second offense, but still they passed it, and then down in Annapolis in our state capital, they passed another law of mandatory minimums. It’s very politically popular, but as you can see, it’s kind of dicey when it’s applied to someone’s life. And in the case of the cop, they did everything they could to maneuver around it, not to apply it.
TAYA GRAHAM: The point is you can’t have two systems of justice, one for cops and one for the rest of us, and still call it justice. Self-serving stratification of law is both corrupt and corrosive. The case of Officer Michael Gentil illustrates how destructive mandatory minimums are, but it also exposes that our justice system is in some sense a veritable caste system, a two tiered enforcer of poverty and racial inequity that absolves those who enforce it and savagely punishes the rest of us for resisting it. That’s why we have this show, not just to report, but to analyze and to put American style injustice into context, and to work with you, our viewers, to hold the police and the politicians who support them accountable.
I want to thank Chad Wilkins for speaking with us, and of course my cohost Stephen Janis for his investigative reporting. I’m your host Taya Graham, and I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please share it with us and we might be able to investigate. Please reach out to us. You can email us tips privately at PAR@TheRealNews and share your evidence of police misconduct. You can also reach me at my social media @tayasbaltimore on Twitter or Facebook, and please like and comment. I do read your comments, and I appreciate them.
And I appreciate you for joining me for the Police Accountability Report. Thank you.
Police Accountability Report, hosted by Taya Graham and Stephen Janis, is a weekly show that seeks to expose and hold to account one of the most powerful institutions in this country—the police.