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NFL Player Delayed by Police While Mother-in-Law Was Dying

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A police officer was placed on administrative leave Thursday over a traffic stop involving an NFL player whom he kept in a hospital parking lot and threatened to arrest while his mother-in-law died inside the building.

Officer Robert Powell also drew his gun during the March 18 incident involving Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats in the Dallas suburb of Plano, police said.

"I can screw you over," he said at one point in the videotaped incident. When another officer came with word that Moats' mother-in-law was indeed dying, Powell's response was: "All right. I'm almost done."

Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle apologized to the family and announced that Powell would be on paid leave pending an internal investigation.

"When we at the command staff reviewed the tape, we were embarrassed, disappointed," Kunkle said. "It's hard to find the right word and still be professional in my role as the police chief. But the behavior was not appropriate."

Powell, 25, a three-year member of the force, stopped Moats' SUV outside Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano after Moats rolled through a red light.

Police officials said Powell told his commanders he believed he was doing his job, and that he drew his gun but did not point it. Kunkle said Powell was not necessarily acting improperly when he pulled his weapon out, but that once he realized what was happening should have put the gun back, apologized and offered to help the family in any way.

"His behavior, in my opinion, did not exhibit the common sense, the discretion, the compassion that we expect our officers to exhibit," Kunkle said.

Moats' wife, who was in the car along with other relatives, said Powell pointed his weapon at her.

Video: NFL player pulled over

On the Web site of the Dallas Morning News, video from a police dashboard camera shows a Dallas police officer stopping Texans running back Ryan Moats in front of the hospital where his mother-in-law lay dying of cancer. Watch Video

"He was pointing a gun at me as soon as I got out of the car," Tamishia Moats told The Dallas Morning News.

Ryan Moats told KRLD-FM in Dallas in a phone interview Thursday that after the officer pointed the gun at his wife, he pointed it at him. "I just tried to stay as still as possible to not scare him or do anything to make him react," he said.

He earlier told the newspaper he thought Powell should be fired but backed off that in his radio interview.

"All I know is what he did was wrong," Moats said. "He stole a moment away from me that I can never get back. I'm really not the judge on what should happen to him."

The Moats family did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press. Powell did not respond to requests for comment through the Dallas police union.

Video from a dashboard camera inside the officer's vehicle, obtained by Dallas-Fort Worth station WFAA-TV, revealed an intense exchange in which the officer threatened to jail Moats.

He ordered Tamishia Moats, 27, to get back in the SUV, but after pausing for a few seconds, she and another woman rushed into the hospital. She was by the side of her mother, 45-year-old Jonetta Collinsworth, when she died a short time later from breast cancer.

"Get in there," said Powell, yelling at Tamishia Moats as she exited the vehicle. "Let me see your hands!"

"Excuse me, my mom is dying," Tamishia Moats said. "Do you understand?"

Ryan Moats explained that he waited until there was no traffic before proceeding through the red light. When Powell asked for proof of insurance, Moats grew more agitated and told the officer to go find it.

"My mother-in-law is dying! Right now! You're wasting my time!" Moats yelled. "I don't understand why you can't understand that."

As they argued, the officer got irritated.

"Shut your mouth," the officer said. "You can either settle down and cooperate or I can just take you to jail for running a red light."

By the time the 26-year-old NFL player received a ticket and a lecture from Powell, about 13 minutes had passed. When he and Collinsworth's father entered the hospital, they learned Collinsworth was dead.

Earl Jackson, Collinsworth's father, said he knew what Powell was doing was wrong. "This guy, he wouldn't listen to nobody," Jackson said in an interview with Dallas-Fort Worth station KDFW-TV.

Moats said he wouldn't have had a problem with the officer giving him a ticket after letting him go into the hospital.

"I don't know what he was thinking," he told KRLD-FM. "Basically, I was just shocked. I was very shocked that he wasn't budging on it. I even said I can't believe that this was happening."

Kunkle said the video showed that Moats and his wife "exercised extraordinary patience, restraint in dealing with the behavior of our officer."

"At no time did Mr. Moats identify himself as an NFL football player or expect any kind of special consideration," Kunkle said. "He handled himself very, very well."

The Moats family, who are black, said they can't help but think that race might have played a part in the white officer's behavior.

"I think he should lose his job," Ryan Moats said.

When the exchange was at its most contentious, Powell said he could tow Moats' SUV if he didn't have insurance and that he could arrest him for fleeing because he didn't immediately stop when Powell turned on his sirens. The pursuit lasted a little more than a minute.

"I can screw you over," Powell said. "I'd rather not do that. Your attitude will dictate everything that happens."

The ticket issued to Moats was dismissed, Dallas police spokesman Lt. Andy Harvey said.

Texans spokesman Kevin Cooper said the team had no comment.

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39 comments so far | Post a comment now
Monica March 27, 2009, 4:14 PM

That cop is prejudice towards black people. Because the football player was driving a nice vehicle doesn’t mean it was stolen. If he had a heart,he would’ve let them go into the hospital to see their relative before she passed away. He need to be fired for racial discrimination. BASTARD!

Marci March 27, 2009, 4:55 PM

I do not think it was necessarily racial discrimination, but I do think it was a case of a police officer misusing power and authority.

Anonymous March 27, 2009, 6:00 PM

I think this kind of behavior explains exactly why there is such distrust between the black community and police officers. It is my sole belief that when there is a black person being questioned there is a “treat them all the same”(they must be guilty of something) attitude, there is no humility or judging on a case by case approach period.

carol March 27, 2009, 6:46 PM

My heart goes out to the Moats and this time of terrible loss. What a tragendy to have such a tragedy marred with such utter lack of empathy. I don’t know what’s wrong with people. I’m not sure if race played a factor or just ignorance. I am just so sad that his wifes last moments with her mother were marred with such stress and conflict.

Mike March 27, 2009, 7:03 PM

So sorry for the Moats family that they had to endure an injustice such as this as a family member passes on.
What other motivation could there
be besides racism?
This “Barney Fife” character should be considered a real threat to
the citizens of Dallas.
If there is any justice, than this fool Powell should be dismissed immediately.

Stacie March 27, 2009, 7:15 PM

Well, we should look at his age too. The cop does look relatively long too. I don’t think he is necessarily a racist (not from this clip anyway), but I think it was poor judgment on his part. If he didn’t believe that the offenders actually had a dying relative, then he could’ve escorted them to the room. I mean, if it was really that serious. It was obvious that he had nothing but time on hands, so I don’t see why he couldn’t have escorted them. *smh* Truly sad that they arrived to late. Their family is in my prayers.

lyric king March 27, 2009, 10:30 PM

It wasnt racial profiling but it was RACISM once Moats got out of the truck. HAZZARDS LIGHTS,HOSPITAL,and a young woman screaming my mother is DYING!!!!!! Lets see,hmmm,young BLACK MALE, nice SUV,woman screaming,hmmm,yeah I got me one of those drug dealers,LET ME DRAW MY GUN.Come on people just because the PRESIDENT IS BLACK,doesnt mean these ignorant cops are going to change and i didnt say WHITE COPS ONLY AND I DIDNT SAY ALL COPS. Its just that a cop like the one in this case makes it BAD for the the good ones,who would of handled Moats situation TOTALLY different.THIS IS NOT JUST TEXAS!!!!!!This was about a RED LIGHT until Moats got out of that truck.Reality is if he wasnt at that hospital this could of turned even more tragic.Well our prayers go out to his family and may he continue an successful career.Lets also pray for this officer and our entire US LAW ENFORCEMENT.Maybe their screening and training methods will get better.

Tasha March 27, 2009, 10:33 PM

I feel that this is a case of extreme bad judgement. I feel that this cop shouldn’t be serving a communtity with this type of attitude. What exactly did he mean by ” I can screw you over”.? This shows total respect and abuse of power. I wouldn’t want this type of person working for my community. This is one of the reasons why the black community has lost respect for cops. I wonder how many people he has screwed over.( just a thought)

Mike March 28, 2009, 2:01 AM

the officer could have handled the situation differently. He rong for drawing his weapon, I am a police officer and an FTO and the most important thing I tell my cadets is an officer that hesitates to draw his weapon is a dead officer. After drawing his weapon he should have put it away after he deemed the threat no longer existed, The officer did not act professionally and should be suspended and retrained. Officers like that make it hard for good officers to get respect. RYAN I appologize on behalf of all Law Enforcement and my prayers are with you and your family….

Mike March 28, 2009, 2:07 AM

officers was trained in the academy that when you pull over a vehicle and some one or multiple people jump out of a vehicle to draw your weapon, 4 officer are dead in Oakland because they hesitated to draw thier weapon.

jamie March 28, 2009, 7:04 AM

This is soooo sad. Im sorry but i have seen first hand to many times police officers abusing their power-this is another case. How can you act so cold when some1 says their trying to go see aa family member that is dying!!! this makes me sick-it MAY have been racial-but reguardless things like this happen everyday AND IT IS REDICULOUS!!! god bless this man and his family-I wish he could have been there to support his wife-BUT THIS COP TOOK THAT FROM HIM!

Kathy, NYC March 28, 2009, 9:56 AM

I would like to know what standard operating procedure is in Dallas for someone not stopping when a patrol car is in pursuit. Black, White or Green I can’t beleive that an officer should just bow down. Why is he not receiving any support from any kind of union or Patrolman’s Benevolent Association. Find a good lawyer, Officer Powell.

jo March 28, 2009, 1:32 PM

The officer wasn’t really wrong by stopping the Moats auto.He did run a red light,although he slowed down to see if anyone was coming.But I thought you could turn right on red after stopping.The officer could have been more considered about the situation and he could have followed them into the hospital as i’ve seen many policemen do.It was wrong for him to try to will his power around and scare the Moats.That’s intimidation and we have enough bad cops as it is.I don’t think the policemen should be fired,just reprimanded or go through the dos & donts of an officer.And next time call your commander in charge.And please stop saying that Moats is a football player,the officer didn’t know that Moats was a football player and Moats didn’t say that he was a football player.We do have enough racist & mean cops as it is.Plano.Farmers Branch,and Carrollton are one of the worst places to be stopped by a policeman if you’re not white.

stephen March 29, 2009, 10:57 PM

Oh, please. If they ran that red light and hit someone would THAT have been dismissed to if they KILLED someone? Probably because he has MONEY for being an NFL player. If you run a freaking red light, you’re breaking the law. I was in the exact same situation and I got a reckless driving ticket for 85 in a 65 and mine wasn’t dismissed. I’m white, and it was a black cop. THAT wasn’t on the news. hhmmm… but because he’s black and has money his story is… funny that?

Nicole March 29, 2009, 11:17 PM

I agree with Stephen. The officer didn’t even know he was black until they all got out of the car, in which case everyone knows that’s something you NEVER do when a cop pulls you over. This isn’t a racism case.. it’s a case of a bunch of black people angry because one of their own got a ticket for doing something illegal. Grow up. if you run a red light, you break the law, if you speed, you break the law, if you get caught with an ounce of weed, you break the law. But, because you get a ticket for doing something stupid, that doesn’t give you a reason to rise up as a race and say they are ignorant for, OH YEAH, upholding the LAW!

New Jersey

Lori G. March 30, 2009, 12:54 PM

I’m positive that race did not have anything to do with that cop pulling Moats over. Cops love to harass people, whether they’re black, white, brown or red, young or old. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Police officers were either bullies when they were children, or they were bullied. They don’t like anybody, nor do they trust anybody. I think that MAYBE they trust their mothers. But, probably not completely. When you consider the scope of their job…they should be required to have a bachelor’s degree before they can be hired. Then, at least they will have some knowledge as to how to handle a complicated situation. At least they would have more than a slight clue, (plus a terrible attitude) which seems to be the only prerequisite for their employment.
I hate the police more and more, the older I get. Incidents such as this, and the stories I’ve read about elderly ladies being harassed and arrested for minor traffic violations make me absolutely sick. (Oh, and seeing a handicapped man dumped out of a wheelchair doesn’t exactly instill much faith in us either!)

Laura March 31, 2009, 9:15 PM

Yes, Ryan was breaking the law when he ran a red light, but I believe the officer did overreact. I won’t blame the officer for being cautious at first, but when they were saying, “My mother is dying,” he should have let them go inside. Considering the nurses were coming out and trying to explain that, yes, the mother-in-law was indeed dying, he should have definitely let them go inside. And then when the second officer told him that the woman WAS dying, the officer should have most definitely let them go inside!!!

I would like to know how this guy even got a job in the first place. He obviously has some power issues that should disqualify him from ever becoming an officer. Heck, when he says, “I can screw you over,” I would’ve said, “You already are, since I’m missing the last moments with my mother-in-law!”

What really throws me off is that that officer has yet to apologize for the incidence—only his superiors. That is what is really disappointing.

I feel sorry for Ryan’s family and offer my condolences.

Lauren March 31, 2009, 10:03 PM

I want to start off saying that I believe the police officer acted poorly in MANY ways. I do want to comment on the other comments, though. Why is it that just because a white person is mean toward a black person, it is automatically assumed prejudice/racial discrimination. I am not defending the officer in any way, but I would like to know why white people are blamed for any problems toward people of any other background? Would a black officer have acted the same way toward a white person? Anyway, the officer was obviously wrong in many ways and should apologize to Ryan Moats and his family.

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