Police who kicked and tased a teenager during an arrest in November will undergo additional training but did not violate most administrative policies, city officials said.
Officials Dec. 31 released the findings of the Schertz Police Department’s internal investigation into 18-year-old Zekee Rayford’s Nov. 2 arrest, which drew criticism mainly from Black Lives Matter advocates who charged the incident was an example of excessive police force.
City Manager Mark Browne pledged to review and improve how the city, especially the police, engage the public: “In every interaction we have with the public, we must do what’s right. My hope going forward is that we continue to do so while working cooperatively together so that we can maintain a community in which all individuals receive the respect, acceptance, positive regard and safety that they deserve.”
Rayford was arrested late Nov. 2 after running a red light on Schertz Parkway and failing to pull over, police said.
Rayford, who is Black, has said he continued driving to his family’s house, not pulling over for fear of stopping in what his parents called a dark, lonely part of their subdivision.
According to reports, the teen entered his driveway and got out of his car with keys in raised hands.
Home-security camera footage showed Rayford getting chased, then tackled, tased and kicked by two officers, Frank Chavarria and Megan Fennesy, as he reached for the front door, not heeding police instructions.
Officer Danielle Apgar arrived a few minutes later. Rayford was charged with suspicion of evading arrest with a vehicle, evading arrest by foot, resisting arrest and possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana.
According to a city press release, investigators found violations of one Police Department directive requiring officers to be kind, courteous and patient.
But, investigators did not find violations of five other police policies, including use of force.
“The investigation also identified training opportunities to reinforce policies and procedures and enhance the department’s continuous improvement and use of best practices in policing. The department will begin this training early in 2021,” the release stated.
Rayford family members, in media reports, disagreed with the results of the internal investigation. Rayford’s attorneys have previously said the arresting officers used excessive force to restrain the teenager.
“I was pretty scared. I was fearing for my life trying to get to the door,” Rayford said in a November virtual press conference. “I was hoping my dad would come, and he did eventually.”
“There was absolutely no reason to tase (Rayford). There was absolutely no reason to knee him the way they were doing,” attorney Daryl Washington said during the press conference. “Police have taken an oath to protect and serve, not to abuse individuals.”
Schertz officials said aside from the internal investigation, the city contracted with an independent third-party consultant to review existing policies and training.
“We hired the consultant as a second set of eyes, to make sure that the written directives in our policies match the business practice,” City Manager Mark Browne said. “It gave us an opportunity to have an unbiased outside perspective review of what happened and to ensure our policies are being followed as written.”
The Police Department is now studying the consultant’s recommendations for revisions to current policies and procedures. The consultant also agreed with the general findings of the internal investigation, according to the city’s press release.
Browne said the focus now is on improving police training, policies and protocols to better meet the needs of all community members.
Several individuals, including Rayford’s parents, friends and BLM advocates, addressed City Council meetings after the Nov. 2 incident, to show support for Rayford and criticize the officers for their actions.
The Nov. 10 council meeting was the scene of tense moments and disruptions.
“I recognize it is not enough to simply say that we will do better, and it is my expectation that we take this opportunity to acknowledge the different perspectives that have been brought forward and explore how those views can improve future interactions with the public,” Browne said.
He added, “It is also important that we continue the good policing that we provide every day to keep our community safe and that starts by preserving the trust and confidence our residents have in us.”
The Guadalupe County Attorney’s Office has dropped the misdemeanor marijuana charge against Rayford, citing a “premature search” conducted by police.
But the county attorney’s office has not recently addressed the remaining charges.