Press Conference

Harker Heights police officers watch body camera footage during press conference at the Harker Heights Police Department Thursday, January 9, 2018, in reference to the arrest of Leah Dure. Dure was arrested on January 1 for the offense of public intoxication. Since her arrest, accusations of police brutality have been made toward the Harker Heights Police Department. In this photo, Dure is talking officers about her injuries that she sustained on or near January 1.

Eric J. Shelton | Herald

Around 10 p.m. Tuesday, Philadelphia-based attorney S. Lee Merritt posted a Facebook Live video in which he stated that he stood by his client in a police brutality case alleged against Harker Heights police. Less than six hours later, his office released a written statement that said he would no longer pursue the matter.

Leah Nadia Dure accused Harker Heights police officer Joshua Wood of police brutality during her arrest on Jan. 1 around 5 a.m. outside of the Seton Medical Center.

In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Harker Heights police Chief Mike Gentry said the claim was false. He proceeded to show video footage from a camera in the police cruiser, as well as security cameras inside the police department headquarters and from outside Seton.

What was missing, however, was body camera footage from the incident of arrest, from when Dure was taken out of a running SUV in which she was found sleeping in, to when she was put in the back of the police car. Tuesday, Gentry told members of the media that the body camera malfunctioned. 

"The absence of circumstantial evidence that a violent attack occurred during the missing period of recording, coupled with significant evidence that Ms. Dure suffered serious injury to her face prior to her arrest makes further pursuit of a civil rights claim untenable," the release from Merritt said.  "Accordingly, our office will no longer pursue this matter on behalf of Ms. Dure."

Dure'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 said. Dure was charged with public intoxication. She has a court appearance on Jan. 22.

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.

During the Facebook Live video Tuesday night, Merritt seemed to strongly believe that Dure was telling the truth. He said that he doesn't represent police brutality victims because it pays well.

"Anyone who falsifies a report against a police officer should be prosecuted by the full extent of the law," he said.

Merritt continued to state that any attorney who misrepresents facts should be disbarred.

"Pursuing the truth is not, by any sense, unethical," he said.

Merritt has failed to respond to the Herald's questions, both during that Facebook Live stream and previously.

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 on the inside of the police car.

Later, when Dure appeared to be uncooperative with police during the booking process, Wood restrains her against the wall.

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gentry said 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. He played it at the end of the presentation.

"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.

254-501-7552 | sullivan@kdhnews.com

(1) comment

SnowWhiteNthe7Thieves

Oh my, someone may have been fibbing. [whistling][rolleyes]

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