The city of Commerce, Texas, has placed its police chief on paid leave and commissioned an outside investigation after a beauty queen alleged that police improperly arrested her after a city official allegedly used racially derogatory language towards her, according to multiple reports.
The investigation is in response to a statement from the lawyer for Carmen Ponder — who was crowned Miss Black Texas in 2016 — alleging that Ponder was arrested in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Commerce following an alleged road rage incident by a city official.
The statement alleges Ponder was angrily approached by a male city official who allegedly “was upset [she drove past] his vehicle, which was being operated by his 14-year-old daughter.”
According to the statement, Ponder refused to apologize to the irate man and then walked into the store to purchase a few items. However, before entering the Wal-Mart, she alleges the city official called her a “black bitch.”
“Upon exiting the Wal-Mart, Ms. Ponder was approached by a plain clothes officer that flashed a badge and pointed to a man standing nearby stating, ‘that is my chief and you’d better go apologize to him!,'” the statement alleges.
The statement claims Ponder initially believed the man in the road rage incident to be Commerce’s Police Chief, Kerry Crews, but says she has since acknowledged she may have been mistaken, and that she now believes the man was another city official.
When Ponder refused to apologize to the man and tried to enter her car, she alleges a police officer grabbed her arm and yanked her backwards, leaving bruising. Using her cell phone, she called 911.
Other uniformed officers arrived at the scene, and allegedly interviewed Ponder and the plain clothes officer separately, the statement charges.
Ponder was “promptly placed … in handcuffs. She was placed in the back of a police vehicle and taken to the local jail where she was later informed she was being charged with evading arrest or detention,” the statement alleges.
The statement alleges Ponder spent the night in jail.
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Crews, the police chief, was one of the officers at the scene, the statement alleges.
Ponder’s lawyer’s statement alleges the actions of the Commerce police officers involved in her arrest “represent [a] clear abuse of authority.” The statement claims Ponder’s civil rights were violated during the May 20 incident.
“Commerce PD officers immediately sided with the white motorist that referred to Ms. Ponder as a ‘black bitch’ and used the authority entrusted to their office to further the intimidation and harassment begun by the errant motorist,” the statement reads. “When Ms. Ponder declined to submit to the demeaning command that she apologize to her assailant, Ms. Ponder was brutalized and arrested by members of the Commerce Police Department and assigned a fraudulent charge.”
Ponder’s lawyer would like the charge against his client dropped and is requesting the incident be investigated and the “officers and/or city officials involved be appropriately punished.”
Multiple officials from Commerce — including the police and the department overseeing the city official accused of using the racial insult — did not respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
According to the Dallas Morning News, a statement released by the city says a Fort Worth law firm is conducting the outside investigation into the incident.
The release, according to several reports, confirmed that Crews had been shopping at Wal-Mart when he intervened in a dispute between two motorists.
The statement says one motorist “failed to comply with [Crews’] requests” and that person was subsequently arrested for “evading arrest or detention.”