Imagine getting a telephone call in the middle of the night, informing you that a family member was in the hospital with only minutes to live. What would you do to be able to spend the final seconds of a loved-one’s life at their bedside? Would you do everything you possibly could to be there for a person who had been there for you throughout your entire life?
Well, that is what Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats, 26, and his wife Tamishia Moats, 27, did on the night of March 18 in the Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas as they rushed through the streets of Dallas in a desperate attempt to make it to the bedside of Tamishia’s mother, Jonetta Collinsworth, who was dying of breast cancer.
However, a time that should have been sentimental for Ryan Moats and his family turned dangerous when they were confronted and verbally assaulted in the parking lot of the Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano by Dallas police officer Robert Powell, 25, a three-year member of the force. Alleged incidents of police brutality and abuse of power are widespread in minority communities, but this incident has outraged an entire nation. Many critics, including Moats, have wondered if this incident was racially motivated, but it is also possible that this incident was age-related, as the young officer may have overreacted in an attempt to prove his power, despite his young age.
Powell allegedly drew his weapon on Tamishia when she opened the door of their SUV. She initially pleaded with Powell to let her go see her dying mother, but when the officer refused to listen to her pleas; she entered the hospital anyway to spend the last moments with her dying mother. “He was pointing a gun at me as soon as I got out of the car,” Tamishia told The Dallas Morning News.
The Dallas police officer had been following Ryan Moats after he ran a red light in an attempt to make it to the hospital in time. Despite the traffic violation, Moats said he waited to see that there was no traffic before he ran the red light. While in the hospital parking light, the Texans running back also pleaded with Powell to let them go, saying that Powell was wasting his time.
“I can screw you over,” Powell responded at one point. Dallas police Chief David Kunkle immediately apologized to Tamishia and Ryan Moats, placing Powell on paid administrative leave on March 26. Powell has since resigned.
“When we at the command staff reviewed the tape, we were embarrassed, disappointed,” Kunkle said. “It’s hard to find the right words and still be professional in my role as the police chief. But the behavior was not appropriate.”
After hospital staff and another officer came out of the hospital to validate Ryan Moats’ story, he was ticketed and allowed to see his mother-in-law in the hospital but she had already passed away.
“(Powell’s) behavior in my opinion did not exhibit the common sense, the discretion, the compassion that we expect our officers to exhibit,” Kunkle added.
Although race may have played a role in the Ryan Moats incident, as Powell, who is White, has recently been accused of jailing former Dallas Cowboys linebacker’s wife Maritza Thomas who is Latina, for three hours and giving her five tickets (four of which were dismissed) for making an illegal U-turn, he also may have been attempting to prove that he was a powerful police officer, despite only being 25 years-old.
Often, when people in their twenties take jobs, they have the belief that they are not getting the respect they deserve from their older counterparts because of their lack of experience. Many times, young professionals will try to prove that they are someone to be respected by abusing their power and demanding that everyone knows that they are in charge. Nevertheless, that insecurity leads to incidents like the one involving Tamishia and Ryan Moats and embarrassment for Powell and his colleagues.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.