The incident began shortly after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, when a concerned resident called 911. The caller claimed that they saw a Black man stumbling down Hedgecoxe Road. He appeared to be wearing only a short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts–though they were actually pants–and ice and snow covered the road. They wanted police to do a welfare check on him.

In a Feb. 19 Facebook post, Plano police wrote that they were “concerned for his welfare and the possibility of the subject being in a mental crisis, delusional, or impaired.”

But 18-year-old Ronald Reese was simply on his way home from a shift at Walmart. According to his father’s Facebook post, Reese’s mother takes him to work after school, and he works fulltime. He walks home, so he doesn’t disturb his mother’s sleep. He wore a t-shirt instead of a jacket because his father says his son is hot natured.

On initial contact, officers tried speaking to Reese. He told him that he was fine and didn’t need any help. He continued walking away from officers. “Officers repeatedly told him they were there to help him,” Plano police claimed. And yet, they never offered to give him a ride home. 

They did, however, continue to follow him for quite a distance before one of the officers keyed up the PA system and told him that they needed to speak with him because they could offer him help.  

Reese continued walking away without acknowledging officers, Plano police wrote on Facebook. After all, it was reaching the single digits in temperature, and Reese’s work wasn’t far from his home. 

Officers exited their patrol vehicles to speak with him again. They asked where he was going. “I’m walking home,” Reese replied. “I’m straight.” 

But officers didn’t agree. After all, he was walking without a coat in historic freezing temperatures, though it wasn’t a crime to do so.

Reese continued trying to walk home and told officers where he was going. Then an officer stepped in front of him, blocking his path. After the 7-minute interaction, the officers arrested Reese for walking in the middle of the road.

According to police, Reese resisted arrest. The arresting officer, however, did not to charge him with it. Instead, Reese spent the night in Plano jail on a Class C misdemeanor of a pedestrian impeding traffic, though there was no traffic due to icy weather conditions. 

“They just treated me like I was a criminal or something,” Reese told Fox 4 news in a Feb. 21 article. According to his family, the high school student has a clean record.

On Monday, Reese claimed that he didn’t stop because he doesn’t trust police, according to an NBC 5 report. “That’s why young Black men like me, we’re scared of the police… They kill and arrest us.”

Protestors impeding traffic in dallas to protest the death of george floyd and speak out against police brutality on may 30, 2020. | sara carpenter / shutterstock. Com

Not-so Simple 

Reese told Fox 4 news that he walked in the middle of the road because of ice and snow on the sidewalks. “Just a simple encounter, a simple encounter,” he said. “That’s why I tried to dodge it, so I could make it home.”  

But it wasn’t a simple encounter. It was just one of dozens of examples over the years when police take excessive, unwarranted action against Black men.

Several social media commenters made the same point when Fox 4 news shared the story on Facebook.

“I was pulled over for walking in the middle of the road when I was about 17,” wrote a commenter of lighter complexion. “The officer asked for my license and where I was headed and I told her what she wanted to know. I was there for maybe 5 minutes and then I was sent on my way. No big deal.” 

“Breaks my mama heart in a million pieces,” another wrote. “The child was walking home from work in below freezing temperatures and instead of ensuring he made it home safely, he was ARRESTED and put in jail. When does it stop? Why? Where is the compassion? Who does this?”

Los angeles – may, 30th: blm protests against police brutality | nicholuas sommer / shutterstock. Com

Video evidence

Three days later, on Friday, Plano police posted a narrative and the dash cam video of Reese’s arrest. Police highlighted that Reese had initially resisted arrest, but officers decided not to charge him. They simply charged him as a Pedestrian in the Roadway, a Class C misdemeanor, but failed to mention that Reese is only 18 and a high school student. 

The condemnation was swift. 

“After reading and watching the video, I want to voice my direct disappointment in the words used on this post. Specifically, words like ‘mental crisis’, ‘delusional’, or ‘impaired,’” one commenter wrote. “In my opinion, this individual does not showcase such behaviors. It gives us (the general public) a negative annotation and makes us perceive individuals differently. It’s my hope that next time Plano PD considers choosing words appropriately.”

“I’m really disappointed in the department’s response to this incident,” another said. “The correct response would be ‘We reviewed the video and recognized that this interaction could’ve been handled better by our officers. PPD is committed to providing further diversity training to help our officers better understand and respond to very valid distrust from the African American community when it comes to interactions with the police. All charges have been dropped and the officers involved have been disciplined.’

“He has the right to decline help, he answered their questions appropriately and showed no sign of mental illness yet continued to be harassed by your officers until detained after an ‘investigation’ suddenly popped up. The fact that Plano police is defending these officers’ conduct should be a concern for everyone in the community. Absolute abuse of power here. Are you going to arrest all the middle age white women who jog in the streets every morning? Indefensible.”

Black lives matter peaceful protest, rally, demonstration in washington square park, manhattan | stockelements / shutterstock. Com

Indefensible response

Reese’s father took to social media Sunday afternoon to express his outrage. “I don’t care if it costs me everything I have to put the right people together and make this ACT, RIGHT. IT TOOK ME A DAY AND A HALF TO WATCH THE COMPLETE VIDEO, THROUGHOUT! I see the look in his eye, and it feels like my heart’s falling out my chest. I’m upset [that] I wasn’t there for him, to protect him. I’m 100% certain if I would’ve been, I’d probably have died that night. No child, mine or anyone, should be in fear this way.”

Reese’s father shared a post from the NAACP of Collin County: “We are extremely disturbed by the arrest of an 18-year-old Black teenager on Tuesday, February 16th by officers of the Plano Police Department. We have reviewed footage of the video provided by the department. No crime was reported at the time of the incident and the teenager posed no threat to the community. The arrest occurred on one of the coldest nights that Texas has experienced.”

NAACP of Collin County called for an internal investigation into Reese’s treatment. They added that they wanted to know how Plano police responded to other, similar situations. “We will provide further comment upon completion of the investigation,” they promised.

June Jenkins, NAACP president of the Collin County chapter, told Local Profile that they have worked with Plano police as well as other cities in Collin County over the years to educate officers. They also keep track of the departments’ use of force records to make sure the diversity training is working. They plan to work with the department in training officers about the importance of discernment and sensitivity. “We feel there was a lack of that [in Reese’s situation],” she says.

Others are saying that Reese’s situation is just another example of why police don’t need to be handling mental health wellness checks. Their presence simply escalates the matter.

Plano Police Chief Ed Drain must have also recognized the situation was indefensible. He initially came to the defense of the officers. “There’s a lot of information that we know about this case that we didn’t know at the time,” he told Fox 4 news.

He goes on to explain that officers didn’t know Reese’s age, that he worked at Walmart, or that he lived nearby — even though he mentions it in the dash cam video of the event

Local Profile contacted Chief Drain for additional comment, but he was unavailable by press deadline. On Monday evening, Plano police released a statement from Mayor Harry LaRosiliere on Facebook.

The Big Picture

In the summer of 2020, dozens of Plano residents united on the streets to protest police brutality against Black people, joining millions around the world who gathered in the name of George Floyd, killed in police custody. Chief Drain spent three hours with student protesters around Reese’s age. He listened to their concerns, and marched with them. Uniformed Plano police officers gave protesters water.

“Every police department can get better, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve got processes in place that limit the chances that we’re going to have a case like that happen,” Drain told Star Local Media in a June 2 report. 

Those processes obviously failed on Friday when Plano police officers arrested Reese on his way home from work.

Chief Drain explained that they dropped the Class C charge because the arrest wasn’t the right response to the situation, which was a simple welfare check.

“They should’ve taken him home, is where he should’ve gone,” he said. 

Editor’s note: Story has been updated to show that Plano police released a statement from Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere on Facebook. It has also been updated to reflect that the dash cam video is still available on the Plano police Facebook page; you simply need a Facebook account to view it.

Christian McPhate

Christian has been working as a freelance journalist in North Texas for more than a decade. His stories have appeared in the Dallas Observer, the Houston Press, and Rolling Stone magazine. He covers a...