JASPER, Texas — Scratch the surface of Jasper’s small town charm, and what you’ll find, according to some who live here, is far from idyllic.
“The idea that racism and prejudice have been wiped clean from Jasper is an absolute illusion,” said attorney Cade Bernsen.
He pointed to a surveillance video from inside Jasper’s police department as an example. It was May 5. He said his client, Sha Diggles, had been taken into custody for falling behind on payments for a traffic violation. Words are exchanged, and the situation quickly spirals out of control.
“The officer comes over and basically assaults her, pushing her up against the wall,” said Bernsen. “Then his partner comes out of nowhere and basically grabs her hair and slams her face on the counter, and then proceeds to take her by the hair and body slam her on the ground. They then handcuff her.”
The video shows the officers trying to drag Diggles by her feet to a holding cell, one of them losing his balance and falling when her shoe comes off.
“I haven’t been able to sleep,” said Diggles. “I have anxiety, and I’m just scared.”
Diggles said the officers pulled her hair so hard that she still has a bald spot nearly a month after the fact. She also said her braces and teeth were damaged.
“Adding insult to injury, after they brutally beat this woman and left her in a jail cell for hours, to cover their tracks in my opinion, they filed resisting arrest charges against her,” said Bernsen.
Those charges have now been dropped.
“To see that video in the police station of my little town was sickening,” said Jasper Mayor Mike Lout.
In a special session, the city council unanimously voted to terminate both officers, and it’s asking the district attorney’s office to consider criminal charges.
The action comes just days before the fifteenth anniversary of James Byrd, Jr.’s death, after being dragged behind a pickup truck in Jasper County.
“Nothing has changed,” said Diggles. “It’s still the same.”