(Warning: the videos in this story contain strong language.)
HARKER HEIGHTS — Police have discredited the alleged police brutality incident that a woman said happened after she was found in the parking lot of Seton Medical Center on New Year's Day.
Harker Heights police Chief Mike Gentry stood before members of the media Tuesday and gave a step-by-step account of what he said happened throughout the day of the incident. Afterward, he showed video footage from security cameras around the medical center, as well as police car footage and body camera footage.
"The investigation has substantially proven her claim to be false," Gentry said. "Although during the arrest, Harker Heights officer (Joshua) Wood did use strong verbal direction and at one point, press her to the wall of the Harker Heights holding facility as she was uncooperative for a time during the booking process. At no time was she fought, thrown down or injured during the arrest."
Police said the woman's injuries were sustained during a violent domestic dispute between her boyfriend, her boyfriend's wife and several other people around 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 1 in Killeen. Police identified the woman as Leah Nadia Dure, and charged her with public intoxication.
Dure's boyfriend was being treated in the emergency room for an eye injury when police found Dure sleeping in the backseat of his car parked in an ambulance bay.
Gentry said during his presentation that he had an audio clip of Dure's boyfriend calling his wife and asking her to deny that Dure's injuries happened during the dispute earlier that morning.
"Like I said, she was beat up when she left the house, and I don't believe a thing she said, so sorry," a female voice said in the recording, which Gentry played at Tuesday's press conference.
An inaudible male voice can then be heard faintly responding.
"So you're telling me to lie to police to say she wasn't beat up when she left? That's what you're telling me?" the female voice said in response.
That was the only part of the conversation played, and police didn't release the rest of the phone conversation. Gentry cited the possibility of information being used in other investigations as the reason the entire conversation was not used. When asked if HHPD would pursue charges against Dure and her boyfriend for falsifying a report, Gentry declined to respond.
When police found her in the backseat of the car, Dure “had (an) odor of alcoholic beverage on or about her person,” according to the arrest affidavit written by Woods. He said he asked her to step outside the vehicle several times, but she refused. She climbed from the back seat to the front passenger seat, and was then removed from the vehicle by an officer from the Killeen Police Department, according to the affidavit.
The arrest affidavit for Dure states that she was arrested because she was a danger to herself and others. While she was being booked, she attempted to grab the officer’s body camera, according to the affidavit.
Video footage from outside the medical center, inside the police car and inside the police station shows does not show officers using excessive force on Dure. At one point, Dure asks the officers to allow her to pull up her pants. When they decline, she hits her own head several times.
Later, officers help her after she complained that the handcuffs were hurting her.
While in the police station, it appeared that Dure was being uncooperative with the officers while they tried to take her picture. In a video, she reaches out to touch the officer when he grabs her arm and detains her against the wall. (Note: the video frame in which this occurs is in the top right hand side of the screen in the following clip from surveillance cameras.)
On Friday, Heights police posted a message on the department’s Facebook page saying it was investigating allegations of physical abuse by an officer against a woman in the parking lot of a local hospital.
The message came in response to a post on the Facebook page of Philadelphia-based civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt. The attorney said a woman, named Leah, had been pulled from the passenger seat of a vehicle in the parking lot and arrested. During the arrest, Merritt said the Heights officer slammed the woman to the ground, which left her face with bruises and scratches. A series of photos attached to the post showed the alleged marks from the arrest.
The Bell County District Attorney's Office and the FBI have been asked to assist in this investigation, according to Gentry.
"When I find misconduct in my police department, I have handled it," Gentry said. "We will not discuss this any more unless there are further developments down the road."