The City of Commerce plans to hold a public meeting tonight in order to share the findings of an internal investigation of the role of Chief of Police Kerry Crews in the arrest of a Texas A&M University-Commerce student. The meeting has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and is scheduled to include a public presentation, followed by a private session to discuss the city’s plans for Crews. The meeting has been scheduled to happen at the First Baptist Church, located at 1401 Washington St.
Carmen Ponder, 23, of Dallas, was arrested following a road-rage confrontation with Michael Beane, a Commerce Independent School District board member, in the parking lot of the Commerce Walmart on May 20. Ponder has accused Beane of using racist language during the incident. Ponder is African-American, while all other participants in the incident are white.
Ponder initially identified Crews as the other party in the road-rage encounter, and it was that version of the story that was shared widely online in the days immediately after the incident. Crews, who was off duty and shopping at the Walmart, became involved in the incident at the request of Beane.
The City of Commerce hired the Fort Worth-based law firm of Lynn, Ross and Gannaway to investigate the incident. A preliminary statement from attorney Julia Gannaway said the investigation showed no evidence that Crews acted with any racial bias during the incident. However, the investigation has also examined the other circumstances around Ponder’s detention and arrest.
"Gannaway noted that although other aspects of the investigation should continue to be considered, it is conclusively established that Chief Crews is exonerated of any allegation of making any racial remarks to Ms. Ponder during the course of the incident on May 20," a City of Commerce news release said. "While there may be additional items for consideration and possible recommended action, race-based claims will not be a factor."
The city's release did say that "the City Council did spend several hours reviewing the incident in its totality. The City Manager is now working with Lynn, Ross and Gannaway to bring this issue to a resolution as quickly as possible."
City Manager Darrek Farrell has said that neither Ponder not her attorney, Dallas-based S. Lee Merritt, have filed a complaint with the city regarding the incident.
Cell phone video taken by Hunt County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Richard Hill, who was also present at the incident, shows Ponder in the moments before her arrest. In the video, Crews is wearing a dark gray or faded black t-shirt, while Beane, wearing a faded red t-shirt, is also visible. That video has been released by the city, as have two police body-cam videos.
The city has also released its written reports pertaining to the incident, with some identifying information redacted.
The unedited videos provided by the City of Commerce: