Commerce police chief, school board member resign after controversial arrest

School board Michael Beane has resigned, citing social media backlash, after his role in a controversial arrest May 20.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout

Just hours after the City of Commerce police chief resigned in the wake of a controversial arrest outside a Commerce Walmart, a Commerce ISD school board member involved announced his resignation.

Board member Michael Beane cited social media backlash over his role in the arrest when he resigned, effective immediately, early Tuesday. 

"I'm resigning ... not because I did anything wrong, but because we don't need to be held hostage," Beane said. "Commerce ISD does not need this kind of media attention."

Chief Kerry Crews had resigned Monday night after a several-weeks-long investigation into the May 20 arrest of Carmen Ponder, a Texas A&M Commerce law student and Miss Black Texas.

Ponder and school board member Michael Beane got into an altercation on the road while Beane was teaching his daughter how to drive. The two pulled into a Walmart parking lot, where the argument continued.

Crews was off duty, in plain clothes and shopping with his family at the Walmart.

Surveillance video presented by the Fort Worth law firm that reviewed the case showed 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 she turns the other way. Her attorney says she was wrongfully arrested and claims the chief abused his power.

Evading arrest charges against Ponder have since been dropped, but Crews said in a statement Monday that "I do not feel I can continue to bear the weight of the police chief position."

"I felt it was something I could handle...I was wrong," he said.

Beane said Tuesday that he'd gotten death threats in the wake of the arrest due to allegations that he used a racial slur against Ponder.

"I want to make clear that at no point during this scenario did anyone but Miss Ponder make any racial claims," he said. He admitted to using cuss words, but said no racial slurs were used.

Beane said "inaccurate reporting" is to blame for his case taking a tailspin.

"People had that pre-judgment," he said. "Now it's a social media attack on myself, my family, my kids, by people that don't know us and don't have anything to do with Commerce."

Ex-chief Crews was accused of using a racial slur as well and has been cleared of that claim. 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.

Crews' 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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