A video of a local man forced to the ground and arrested in his family's home has gone viral, with roughly 300 shares on Facebook alone. The family claims Anderson County Sheriff's deputies acted with excessive force and without cause in attempting to stop a family member from filming the encounter.
Devon Gordon, 22, was wrestled to the ground by three ACSO deputies Saturday, in the kitchen of Melody Harper's home in Anderson County. Harper is Gordon's aunt. Gordon and Harper, among other family members, were celebrating the birthday of Sarah Tenney, another of Gordon's aunts, a family member told the Herald-Press.
Devon Gordon was charged with impeding an investigation. Gordon's uncle, Terrence Perry, however, said Gordon was simply filming deputies, whom he said he no reason to enter the house.
ASCO Capt. Ginger Lively told the Herald-Press the video on social media is “not a complete depiction of what transpired.” Lively said deputies were called to the scene for child welfare concerns related to illegal activity.
Lively also said deputies did nothing improper in entering the home, and that problems didn't begin until other officers arrived.
Terrence Perry said deputies acted without cause. “We were having a birthday party for my wife,” Perry told the Herald-Press Monday. “Suddenly, we turn around and there's a female police officer in the house.”
The deputy would not identify herself, Perry said, but did provide him her badge number: 533. She was later identified as Deputy Stormy Jarvis.
Deputy Jarvis told Perry she was responding to a child welfare call, and that she was legally able to enter the home, because the door was open. Later, Perry said, Jarvis said she could hear yelling from inside, and entered to investigate.
“No one was yelling,” he said. “We were talking over our music; it was a party.”
Family members led Deputy Jarvis to the children's room, where the half-dozen kids were relaxing, playing with Christmas gifts, and watching videos, Perry said. The deputy appeared satisfied, he said, but still called for backup.
When two additional deputies arrived, Perry said, the scene turned violent.
“They came in all aggressive,” he said. “They weren't there to investigate – no way.”
The video shows a deputy, identified by people watching the video on Facebook as Sgt. Ryan Cate, walk rapidly across the room towards Gordon, ordering him to stop filming.
When Gordon didn't comply, Cate forcibly wrestled the phone from his hand, head-locked him, and forced him to the floor with another deputy's help.
Gordon's fiance, April Marie, is seen on video standing behind Gordon when deputies began to take him down. Marie, 10-weeks' pregnant, was knocked backwards and forced to the wall during the altercation. She was brought to the emergency room later that night with abdominal pains.
“There was no reason for any of it,” Perry said. “We're allowed to film. There was no attempt at de-escalation. Aren't they supposed to have some sort of training?”
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement requires all peace officers to attend de-escalation training. They do not, however, mandate the length or kind of training.
De-escalation training teaches peace officers to slow down, create space, and use communication to defuse potentially volatile situations. It aims to give officers alternative strategies to calm people experiencing mental and emotional crises.
Experts say de-escalation training has proven effective. Dallas Police have had an 83 percent drop in excessive force complaints since the department began de-escalation training in 2010.
Former Palestine Police Chief Andy Harvey, author of the book “Excellence in Policing: Simple Ways to Exceed Citizens' Expectations in Every Encounter,” told the Herald-Press officers should always ask themselves if their actions are part of the solution, or if they are creating a bigger problem.
“We have to remember that peoples' homes are their castles,” Harvey said. “When we have to enter one, it's always best to explain why we're there, and gain voluntary compliance.”
Harvey declined to speak specifically to the ACSO deputies' actions, but added: “This is what happens when two worlds collide,” he said. “This will continue until we increase our mutual understanding.”
Perry said he and the other adults in the house were attempting to comply with the deputies' orders. Regardless, he said, since he was also filming the altercation, he was handcuffed as well, and led into another room, away from Gordon's arrest.
“The female deputy didn't have a body camera,” he said. “We needed footage of what was happening.”
On the video, deputies are heard telling Perry he was detained because deputies had told him multiple times to get out of the way. Perry disputes that. Cate is heard on video yelling at those filming to stop and put their cameras away.
Gordon was taken to the Anderson County Jail Saturday and charged with interference with public duties. Bond was set at $1,500. Perry said he will try to get Gordon released Monday.
“I just gotta' get my nephew out of jail, and make sure he's okay,” he said.
Lively said the sheriff's office will review body cam footage to determine if deputies acted properly. If deputies acted criminally, the sheriff's office will turn the investigation over to an outside agency, such as the Texas Rangers.
Gordon's arrest is under investigation.