Viral video from Orange arrest raises questions as police offer answers

OPD Chief Lane Martin, Officer Michael Roush, Johnny Morris and Roderick Collins

“You ain’t taking me to jail, homeboy. I promise you that." This statement was made to an Orange Police Department patrol officer as he was arresting an “uncooperative” subject for a noise ordinance violation April 26 during.

A video of the arrest went viral and has since sparked controversy in the community. Posted on the social media website Facebook on the day of the incident, the video had been viewed more than 52,000 times and shared by more than 1,100 Facebook users as of the morning of April 29.

Representatives of the Orange Police Department say the veteran patrol officer shown in the video acted appropriately, diffusing the potentially dangerous situation, and say they have answers for questions raised on social media and by bystanders.

According to a report from OPD Officer Michael Roush, as he was patrolling April 26 at about 7:05 p.m. in the area of Second Street and Turret Avenue, he saw a Ford Expedition with the windows down and heard loud music blaring from the vehicle.

“The music was loud enough to be heard over 50 feet away,” Roush reported.

Roush stated that no one was in the vehicle, but when he opened the door to the Expedition and turned off the ignition, he was approached by a man who identified himself as Johnny Jacolbi Morris, 30, of Orange. Morris reportedly told the officer the vehicle was his. Roush says he explained to Morris that the loud music was a city ordinance violation and leaving his car with his ignition on was a traffic violation. He then requested Morris’ identification.

According to Roush, Morris became “uncooperative,” thereby “causing a crowd of people to circle the area.” Roush reported that he had to ask Morris for identification several times before Morris said his passport was inside the Expedition. As Morris retrieved his ID, Roush called for backup.

Morris emerged from the Expedition with his passport in hand, Roush reported, but allegedly would not turn over the identification to the officer so a citation could be written. Since he would not cooperate, Roush stated in his report, Morris was advised he was being placed under arrest for the ordinance violation regarding the loud music. Morris allegedly pulled away from Roush as the officer attempted to place him in handcuffs, so Roush pulled out his Taser X-26. He again ordered Morris to put his hands behind his back and to get on his knees. Morris got onto the ground but, Roush reported, the officer had to command Morris to place his hands behind his back several times before he would. Finally, Roush got Morris into handcuffs and into the back of his patrol car.

After securing Morris, Roush and other officers who arrived after his call for backup were collecting information from the vehicle. That’s when another subject, known on sight to Roush, 29-year-old Roderick Tyrone Collins of Orange, began yelling “f*** the police,” repeating it several times, according to Roush.

Roush reported that as Collins yelled, the crowd seemed to “get louder and more disruptive.”

“In my opinion, Collins’ statements were creating an immediate breach of the peace,” Roush wrote. “I believed that if Collins was allowed to continue this behavior that it could have possibly escalated an already heated situation into a riot.”

Morris, who could not be reached for comment, reported to a local news station that he felt “disrespected” by Officer Roush during the confrontation, claiming Roush “snatched” his identification from his hand. Morris admitted taking it back from the officer in the same manner, an action the officer said caused him to pull out his Taser.

Orange Police Department Chief Lane Martin says his department has received a few calls from people with questions pertaining to the April 26 incident.

“I feel Officer Roush acted appropriately and with great restraint,” said Chief Martin. He said querying callers only had part of the story from a video on Facebook, which runs about five and a half minutes and shows only a fraction of the events surrounding the two arrests.

The video of Morris’ arrest posted on Facebook did generate some negative responses from members of the community.

“Prayers for this family,” one Facebook commenter wrote. “This man was innocent and didn’t deserve to be harassed like this.”

“That’s sad man,” someone else commented.

“Wow and he didn’t even do nothing,” another remarked.

“What was the city ordinance that gave him the right to arrest?”

According to Chief Martin, the Facebook poster was not the only one recording the incident. In fact, Officer Roush himself recorded the incident on three separate devices.

“Patrol officers are assigned cameras when they start a shift,” Martin said.

OPD Major Wade Robinson explained, “Each patrol officer wears the body camera as they begin a tour of duty. In addition to that, they have dash cams. Each officer who carries a Taser has a Taser camera (a small camera actually attached to the Taser). It continuously records.”

Major Robinson explained that the officers activate the body cams as they exit their patrol vehicles, which is exactly what Roush did prior to the exiting his vehicle the day of the incident in question. Once activated, the body camera also continuously records.

“Our full story is on our body cam,” Martin said. “What people saw was just what was on the social media sites.”

Chief Martin allowed The Examiner to view the full video from Officer Roush’s body cam. The more than half-hour long video depicts the events leading up to the two arrests and events subsequent to the arrest, including a one-sided conversation directed at the officer while the suspect is inside the patrol car on his way to jail.

In the officer’s video of the event, Roush approaches an SUV emitting music from its open windows. Roush asks some nearby people if the vehicle belongs to any of them. A female bystander attempts to speak with the officer as he approaches the unsecured vehicle.

“I can’t hear you,” the female tells the officer during conversation as she walks alongside the Ford Expedition.

Roush explains he is stopping at the location because he heard the loud music playing while patrolling the area and is investigating the noise ordinance violation. The woman asks the officer if she should enter the vehicle to turn off the music, to which the officer responds that she should not enter the vehicle, which she told him was not hers. Instead, the officer himself reaches into the unattended vehicle, turning off the ignition to stop the music.

At that time, a man approaches. He tells the officer the Expedition is his, and Roush explains to the man that he has committed a noise ordinance violation by playing his music too loudly and has also committed a traffic violation for leaving his keys in the ignition of the unoccupied SUV. The officer asks the man for his identification explaining he needs it to write a citation for the ordinance violation, and the man initially refuses, eventually identifying himself as Johnny Jacolby Morris but ignoring Roush’s request for identification. A female bystander begs Morris to cooperate.

“Get your ID,” the woman yells. “Just take the ticket.”

Eventually during the conversation, Morris tells Roush his passport is inside his SUV. He goes into the vehicle to retrieve the ID, but when the officer asks for a closer look and takes the passport from Morris’ hand, Morris says, “no,” and yanks the passport back from Roush. That is when the officer pulls out his Taser.

Officer Roush steps back, aiming his Taser at Morris, and commands him to put his hands behind his back. Morris refuses. Roush tells Morris to get on the ground and place his hands behind his back. Morris lays face down on the ground and, rather than placing his hands behind his back, begins removing jewelry, a gold chain and other items. Roush repeats his command, asking Morris more than a dozen times to place his hands behind his back, and in spite of the subject’s refusal to comply, never deploys the Taser.

Even as the group of bystanders begins to crowd in menacingly, some members of the group grumbling or showing other obvious signs of agitation, Roush – Taser still drawn – remains focused on Morris. Roush finally gets Morris into handcuffs as backup officers arrive on the scene. Morris then tells the officer he is not taking Morris to jail. As he promises he is not going to go to jail, a male bystander says, “Yes, you are.”

Throughout the confrontation, Roush can be heard on the video explaining his actions to those gathered at the scene. One bystander shouts out, “Why didn’t you read him his rights?”

“I am not asking him any questions,” Roush responds, citing the law that Miranda rights are only read by necessity prior to interrogation.

After Morris is secure, another man starts shouting, “F*** the police!” His shouting seems to further agitate the crowd. He repeats the phrase multiple times, even as he is placed into handcuffs by an officer at the scene. The officer tells the man, identified as Roderick Tyrone Collins, he is under arrest for disorderly conduct. As officers attempt to get him into the back of a patrol vehicle, he goes limp in what seems to be an attempt to make it more difficult for them. Officers later restrain him in leg shackles after he reportedly kicked around the back seat of the car, which officers said could have caused him to harm himself if allowed to continue.

A woman approaches Officer Roush in an attempt to get custody of the Ford Expedition Morris said was his. Roush tells her he cannot release the vehicle to her without seeing her driver’s license to verify the vehicle is hers. He offers to call off the wrecker responding to tow the vehicle if she produces her driver’s license, but she doesn’t have it. He explains to her that he pulled over because he heard the loud music playing and saw the vehicle on with the keys in the ignition. He tells her he planned to write a simple citation before Morris refused to provide his identification.

“This could have all been avoided,” he says. “If he’d given me his ID, I would have written the ticket and he would have been on his way.”

Officer Roush’s body cam video continues to records for several minutes as he drives with Morris detained in the back.

“You ain’t nothing but a b****,” Morris tells Officer Roush. “Let’s go round for f****** round. I don’t care about you recording this s***. Take off the handcuffs, and let’s go round for round. … I’ll bust your a**.”

The officer does not respond. The body cam video stops soon after the threats are uttered.

A database search revealed Morris was arrested in June 2006 for driving with a suspended license. He pleaded no contest and received probation for one year. Collins was convicted of second-degree felony robbery stemming from a June 2005 incident, according to the database. He was also previously convicted of evading arrest and criminal trespass, Public Data reports, and spent time in state jail.

Chief Martin said Officer Roush was justified in his actions April 26 and in arresting Morris. Morris violated Sec. 7.604 of the City of Orange Code of Ordinances, which reads, “The operation of any such sound amplifier in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from a vehicle shall be presumed to be violative of this section.” Morris also allegedly left his keys in his ignition of his unattended vehicle, a violation of Sec. 545.404 of the Transportation Code. He was not charged with the traffic violation.

Morris could have incurred yet another charge, reports Chief Martin, because he would not initially identify himself to the officer. Martin said officers cannot randomly go up to people and demand identification, but rather they only have the right to make such inquiry in relation to the commission of a crime. Morris could have been charged with failure to identify pursuant to Section 38.02 of the Texas Penal Code since he refused to identify during the commission of a crime, the noise ordinance violation.

“It should have been just a simple citation,” said Martin.

In response to Morris’ assertion that Officer Roush “snatched” Morris’ passport from him, Martin said he sees it differently in the body cam video.

“It does not appear as though the officer snatches it out Mr. Morris’ hand. It appears that he snatches it out of the officer’s hand,” he said.

According to Martin, Roush’s composure and his communication with bystanders mitigated what could have turned into a hazardous situation.

“Not only did he use great restraint, he explained to the crowd what actions he took and why he took them,” said Martin.

He said he offers the same instruction to citizens facing law enforcement officers that he gives to his officers.

“Be calm and courteous,” Martin advised. “In a situation like this, when an officer asks for an ID after an offense is committed, simply give the ID to the officer.”

“If someone feels the situation is not being handled properly, they can ask for a supervisor to come on the scene, and that is on any call,” suggested Major Robinson. “If you feel you need a second opinion, just ask for a supervisor to explain it you.”

“We have a good rapport with people in the community,” said Chief Martin. “If anyone has concerns or questions, come talk to us.”