Cleared in arrest of Miss Black Texas, police chief quits

City of Commerce police chief resigns

COMMERCE, Texas -- First Baptist Church in Commerce was packed on Monday evening.

To the surprise of many people, its Police Chief Kerry Crews announced he was resigning from his post. This is following a several weeks-long investigation into what occurred at a Walmart on May 20.

The community is somewhat torn by an event involving Carmen Ponder, an A&M Commerce student and Miss Black Texas 2016, and Michael Beene, a school board member. Both were fighting over an altercation on the road. But Monday evening's meeting was about the chief of police who intervened.

"I felt it was something I could handle...I was wrong," the chief said in a statement read by the Mayor.

Chief Crews was off duty at the time and was in plain-clothes and shopping with his family at the Walmart when he was alerted to what was happening by Beane.

"I do not feel I can continue to bear the weight of the police chief position," the mayor read in the statement.

A Fort Worth law firm was asked to review the case. They presented the details for all to see, including Walmart surveillance. The video shows Beane walking over to talk with the chief in the parking lot. That conversation lasts two minutes before it appears Beane points out Ponder leaving the Walmart.

Later it shows the chief walking in Ponder's direction and the video shows her turns the other way. Her attorney says she was wrongfully arrested and claims the chief abused his power.

The Hunt County DA dropped Ponder's charge of evading arrest. The city of Commerce cleared the police chief of using a derogatory word that Ponder incorrectly thought he said.

In the chief's letter he wrote that he felt Ponder disrespected his position as chief.

"It was surprising and laughable how although my charges were dropped and everything is coming out right on my side you did this," said Carmen Ponder.

The resignation is welcome news to Ponder's attorney Lee Merritt. "It would have been nice to hear that he made a mistake in perfecting this arrest," he said.

But for most here it was not the update they were hoping. A telling moment was after the prayer ended and someone yelled, "God Bless Kerry Crews." It resulted in a standing ovation for the police chief lasting 40 seconds.

"Honestly I was a a bit on edge just because of the setup," said Lee Merritt, attorney for Ponder.

Merritt says he has not decided whether to pursue a civil case. Merritt was also not happy that Crews will return to a city position as an assistant to the city manager. Crews stated in his letter that he would play a role in the city's planning efforts.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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