BEAUMONT, Texas — An organization, founded by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., hand-delivered a letter to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Thursday afternoon, demanding the release of the video involving Beaumont Police and a man they say was paralyzed while in custody.
The Texas Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Beaumont NAACP chapter gathered in front of Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens' office in response to Beaumont Police officer's alleged attack that paralyzed 40-year-old Christopher Shaw.
“Release the video Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens. Be the change agent for the community of Jefferson County who voted for you. Be the change agent,” said Dr. Candace Matthews, statewide committee chair for the Rainbow Push Coalition.
During the news conference, Matthews displayed a letter that is under the direction of Rev. Jackson Sr., president and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The letter is addressed to Stephens, further demanding the video be released.
“We want transparency. We want accountability. We want this to not be hidden any longer,” Matthews said.
Shaw was taken into police custody after he was arrested for public intoxication on June 12, 2021. Civil rights leaders and Shaw said the incident that left him paralyzed happened as police were transferring him to the Jefferson County Jail.
Once Shaw was inside the booking area, officers said he became very aggressive, using physical force to push officers, according to a probable cause affidavit. Shaw “intentionally and knowingly” proceeded to kick an officer in the shin and groin, the affidavit says.
He was eventually restrained and charged with assault to a public servant.
Regional civil rights organizations are continuing to request to see the tape so the public can know what happened while Shaw was in police custody. They believe seeing the footage is the right of the public.
“It does more harm to conceal the video. And even if it is part of the investigation, the facts of the investigation will remain the same, whether the video is released or not," said LaDonna Sherwood with the NAACP.
Stephens has called on the Texas Rangers to do an in-depth investigation, according to a 12News file story.
“Any time there is a critical incident in the jail, we forward it to our state jail commission and the Texas Rangers,” Stephens previously told 12News. “It is always good to have an independent third set of eyes."
Beaumont Police Chief Jim Singletary previously defended his officer.
"We feel very badly about the gentleman who got injured, but our officer was just doing his job, and I want them to protect themselves,” Singletary told 12News previously. “I stand by the actions of this officer. I hate that somebody got hurt, but he did his job.”
Singletary said he plans on making the video public but does not know when that will happen.
Southeast Texas leaders said all they're asking for is transparency.
"We don't want any excuses," said Angela Johnson, former law enforcement officer and Montgomery County Accountability Chair. "These people deserve to know what actually happened to their loved one."
Shaw's lawyers said they have seen the bodycam video from his arrest on June 12. His legal team alongside Southeast Texas civil rights organizations held a march on Sept. 25 to demand justice.
This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information.
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