New England Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts claims he was harassed by a Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office deputy during a March traffic stop in front of his Richmond home.
The sheriff’s office responded Friday, apologizing to Roberts and saying an edited video of the incident helped spur a controversy that has made national headlines.
According to a USA TODAY report that included dashcam footage of the stop, Roberts, 25, was stopped March 10 shortly before 10 p.m. in the Pecan Grove subdivision in Richmond and complained of harassment. The report said the deputy, Adam Watkins, referred to Roberts as a “big black man” when calling for backup.
The FBCSO said Roberts was given a citation for allegedly driving 59 mph in a 35 mph zone and not being able to provide proof of insurance. During the stop, Sheriff Troy Nehls said Roberts was told to stay in his car and immediately complied.
Roberts’ attorney has requested an investigation into the traffic stop, according to USA TODAY.
“Unfortunately, these types of things are happening all too often to African Americans,” Roberts said in a statement to USA TODAY. “People are becoming desensitized to them. Being harassed in your own yard simply because you are a ‘big black man’ should never become the norm.”
FBCSO released a 16-minute video of the stop Friday. Nehls said a video included in the USA TODAY report was edited and an inaccurate portrayal of the incident.
“What happened is people are trying to make this a racial issue, and it is not one,” Nehls said. “Fort Bend County is one of the most diverse counties in the country, and we are successful because of the relationships we’ve built. We trust them, and they trust us. There have been travesties in interactions between white and black that have caused some of the most civil unrest in this country. There have been trying times, but we haven’t experienced that in Fort Bend County.”
Following the initial stop, Nehls said about eight minutes passed while the deputy called for backup before getting out of his patrol car and issuing Roberts a citation, which Nehls said was later downgraded to a warning after an internal review of the incident.
Patrol Captain Steve Holtz said the deputy who conducted the stop was about four months out of the police academy at the time of the incident and believes that inexperience played a role in how things panned out.
“He told me he was nervous about the time, and I take that into account. That changes how we look at things,” Holtz said. “He received a verbal reprimand and was receptive to what I had to say.”
Nehls said he had a 20-minute meeting with Roberts sometime after the incident, apologizing for the length of the stop and for the deputy yelling at Roberts’ family members to remain inside the home while waiting for backup.
“I didn’t like the way it was conducted or how he interacted with the family. We can train and work on these things,” Nehls said. “Everything that happens, and fails to happen, is my responsibility. I apologize for the way (Roberts) was treated and how you felt at that point in time. I’m sure he felt a little uncomfortable, and I’m sorry for that. I’m sure (the deputy) has learned from this experience, and I think he will continue to learn. We all make mistakes in our law enforcement careers.”