Cantering into city hall sporting a short sleeved button down shirt with pictures of vintage cars on it, Jasper City Mayor Mike Lout, in a specially convened session of the city council on Monday, swiped off his baseball cap, took to the microphone, and in the time it takes to boil a three minute egg, ended the careers of two cops by publicly firing them, gaveled the proceedings to a close, and still had a minute to spare.
Reading aloud from the council’s executive session, Council Member Hazel Johnson made a motion that Ryan Cunningham be terminated from the Jasper Police Department. When the motion was seconded without discussion, The People’s House in Jasper City Texas erupted with a resounding, “Aye,” when it was was put to a vote for those in favor. Despite his casual appearance, Lout was all about the city’s business, and instructed the thronged gallery that, “the crowd does not have a vote in this,” and warned the audience that, “this is a serious matter.” Hushing itself to a grumble, Jasper City residents listened with restrained enthusiasm as the motion to terminate Cunningham’s partner, Officer Ricky Grissom was subsequently unanimously confirmed, and then burst into applause.
Reportedly arrested for failure to pay an outstanding fine in the amount of $100, Keyarika Diggles called her mom for the money. Two panda sized police officers, Ricky Grissom and Ryan Cunningham loped around the station waiting for Diggles to finish her call. Without warning, Grissom unexpectedly ends the call himself, and hangs up on Diggles’ mother. An agitated Diggles then throws down the receiver, and an argument between her and Grissom ensues. Within seconds, Grissom’s partner Cunningham, lumbers up behind Diggles, grabs her by the hair and violently cracks her head up against a nearby counter. A stunned Diggles falls to the floor under the weight of both officers, gets cuffed and dragged by her feet into her cell.
On his first attempt at dragging Diggles, Cunningham grabs a hold of her foot, and like a pratfall comedy, is hurled backwards when her shoe pops off, and sent tumbling down the dark corridor behind him until falling flat on his back side à la vintage Fatty Arbuckle; it’s the Keystone cops with buzz cuts and anger issues. The whole incident is captured on surveillance video, which I guess both officers were aware existed. Matter of fact, the whole PD knew about the incident and the video a full three weeks before anyone on the city council was even notified. Guess no one counted on the video getting leaked to Yahoo News?
Once it was out there, the mayor and entire city council acted swiftly, and transparently, and judging by the reactions at city hall that morning, inoculated themselves against critics who point at the incident as just another example of Jasper City’s pervasive racism.
Home of the infamous 1998 case of James Byrd, Jr., a black man who was lashed to the back of a pick up truck by white supremacists and dragged until his head snapped off, Jasper, known as “The Jewel of the Forest,” has been a city plagued with racial divisiveness for decades. As recently as 2011, when Lout publicly opposed appointing Rodney Peasrson as Jasper’s first black chief of police, the political imbroglio became racially tinged. When it was all said and done, two black council members lost their seats in recall elections and Pearson was ultimately fired. Lout himself, survived a recall election in May of 2012, and was only just re-elected and sworn in for his final term two days prior to this event unfolding. “I don’t give a damn if it was two black cops and a white woman or, female cops or white cops, I didn’t like what I saw,” said Lout in a phone interview with The Surveillance Report. “What was on the council’s mind going into this, was that the woman was already in custody. She wasn’t going any where; there are five doors, and they’re all electronically sealed, it didn’t need to happen this way,” said Lout.