The description of events the Guilford County District Attorney Office recited in explaining why it was not going to reexamine its decision not to file charges against Greensboro Police Officer Travis Cole does not align with the video record.
GREENSBORO, NC — The News & Record reports today that the Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson will not take another look at the facts surrounding the brutal attack by a Greensboro police officer on a citizen, for which the D.A. declined to press charges against the police officer. Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann explained why to the News & Record.
Neumann’s recitation of events differs importantly from the video record. For this reason alone, the District Attorney should review the case again.
To understand why, let’s walk through the description of events as Assistant District Attorney Neumann told them to the News & Record.
He [Dejuan Yourse] told the officers it was his mother’s home, but they were unable to verify it, Neumann said.
At the time that Officer Travis Cole attacked Dejuan Yourse, another officer was in possession of Yourse’s identification, having collected it in the presence of Cole. Yourse had also previously given Cole his name. Online County property records show the house where Yourse was encountered—he told police he was waiting for his mother—is owned by Livia Sue Yourse, the name Dejuan Yourse had given to the police as his mother’s name.
Maybe what Neumann meant was that police were unable to verify the mother/son relationship, but they knew, or easily could have known, that a person named Yourse was sitting on the porch of a house owned by someone named Yourse.
Furthermore, Yourse had been actively trying to assist the police in verifying that he was at his mother’s house; four times he suggests that Charlie, a neighbor, could vouch for him. Each time, Cole declined. Yourse also called a number he said was his mother’s and put the call on speaker. The call went to voicemail.
“They have a call of somebody trying to break into a house,” [Neumann] said. “They find a man there. Legally, they have a right to detain him.”
Okay, sure. But that’s a red herring. Yourse was not trying to flee. In fact, he was seated when Cole attacked him. The question is not about the legality of detention, but about the legality of seizing a phone, the punches and the arrest.
After the officers asked if he knew of any warrants for his arrest, Yourse became agitated, Neumann said.
This is the most egregious of Neumann’s misstatements or erroneous recollections. And, by the way, this is why “journalism” at the News & Record stinks. Real journalists do not regurgitate the erroneous claims of authorities without aligning them with the facts. Allow me.
About 4 minutes into their encounter, Cole asks Yourse if he has any warrants on file. Yourse’s response is calm, he says no. He remains seated and explains, again, that he’s just “Sitting here chilling, waiting on my mom, in broad daylight.” Cole remains relaxed too, audibly yawning and declining again to accompany Yourse to talk to the neighbor. “Naw, we straight,” Cole tells Yourse.
Here, watch it for yourself and see how much it differs from Neumann’s description that Yourse became agitated when asked about outstanding warrants.
He said Yourse then called someone and told then to get over to his mother’s house, where police were “hassling him.”
Sitting on the porch, Yourse called someone and said the police were “harassing” him, an interpretation with which reasonable people might agree — a unanimous City Council did. But let’s back up a minute. To the extent Yourse becomes agitated, it is clear where things turn and it’s not where Neumann remembers.
It is when Cole pokes Yourse in the chest, an action that will get a citizen arrested if done to a police officer. Even so, Yourse returns to his seat and remains seated while he makes his call to report that the police are harassing him.
Again, the facts on video are way out of alignment with Neumann’s recollection. Yourse gets “agitated,” if you want to call it that, when Cole pokes him in the chest, not when asked about outstanding warrants. Watch for yourself.
Yourse refused to give his phone to Cole, who tried to take it from him, which violated police department policy on search and seizure.
“Cole decided he was going to place this guy under arrest for obstruction,” Neumann said.
Maybe so. Maybe, even with Neumann’s recollection aligned with the facts, the DA will reach the same conclusion, that being: If you try to make a phone call in the presence of police, they can lawfully try to snatch it from your hands, grab you if you hang on to it, yell garbled, unclear and incomplete instructions at you, punch you in the face and punch you again if you try to passively defend yourself.
But if that truly is the state of law and order in North Carolina, the District Attorney’s Office owes it to the public to explain such with an accurate recitation of the facts — and if it isn’t fully aware of the facts, it should take another look at them, because what did happen is not what Neumann said happened and maybe some of what really happened is not so legal.