Grits for Breakfast blogger Scott Henson is stepping back his “Babysitting While White” post that has made headlines across the world and sparked outrage against the Austin Police Department.
Read the background details of the story and Henson’s private emails to and from Austin Police Chief Acevedo here.
In a nutshell, police detained Henson and his 5-year-old granddaughter after someone called 911 and reported that a white man was kidnapping a black girl. Henson is white and his granddaughter Ty is black.
Henson made some strong accusations against the APD officers involved. Essentially, he made it a racial issue and claimed that the police overreacted.
Henson updated his blog after he was shown video of the incident by Chief Acevedo. At first, Henson claimed “jump out boys” confronted him with Tasers.
”The officers got out with Tasers drawn demanding I raise my hands and step away from the child,” Henson said in his blog.
But after he was shown the video and learned police were releasing the video, Henson quickly walked back the story on his blog in an update posted on January 17.
“I recollected in the blog post that an officer had a taser drawn and from the video the officer’s arm was only crooked and prepared to draw. It happened in a flash and like many eyewitnesses, when under a perceived threat, my mind filled in some pieces erroneously, I’ll be the first to admit in light of the video evidence. It was not an intentional error.”
That’s a far different story from what Henson originally claimed.
A reporter for the Statesman sat down with Acevedo on Friday and reviewed the video and determined that Henson’s story was not accurate.
The PR damage to the department has already been done. News articles and commenters all across the internet are calling for heads to roll at APD and for lawsuits to be filed. The UK Daily Mail posted the headline, “Arrested for being WHITE?”. The Daily Mail, like other outlets, clearly got their facts wrong. Henson was never arrested.
Acevedo is fighting back. He’s releasing the initial 911 call, reportedly from a frantic woman who claimed that a white man was chasing a young black girl and trying to kidnap her.
Henson, an activist that is a strong critic of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, used his blog to grind his axe.
Years ago, Henson authored a blog called, Austin Police Department Hall of Shame, which published police disciplinary reports he obtained under the Open Records Act.
But in an email to Acevedo, Henson strongly requested that Acevedo deny reporter’s requests under the Open Records Act for the videos and the 911 call relating to his case.
Acevedo plans to release it all next week. He told Henson via email, “Scott, unfortunately we can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.”
Here is Henson’s update to his original story:
UPDATE/CORRECTIONS (3/17): Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to review the documentation, video, audio and police reports related to this incident in Art Acevedo’s office and heard his pitch why this blog post was unfair. There are really only two corrections I’d make having now seen the videos and other documentation Chief Acevedo showed me yesterday. (I’m probably going to write about it again over the weekend.) First, I recollected in the blog post that an officer had a taser drawn and from the video the officer’s arm was only crooked and prepared to draw. It happened in a flash and like many eyewitnesses, when under a perceived threat, my mind filled in some pieces erroneously, I’ll be the first to admit in light of the video evidence. It was not an intentional error. That said, I correctly perceived that all of a sudden a LOT of cops were on us out of nowhere and if I’d made any sudden or untoward moves I’d be tazed or worse. I think it wasn’t unreasonable for either of us to feel threatened by them rolling up on us like that.
The other error was that the original post cast unfair blame on the deputy constable. Her report said that after we’d spoken, she was heading back to the Millenium Center thinking the incident was over when the dispatcher patched into the constable’s frequency because they’d heard from the Millenium Center she’d gone after us. In the dispatcher’s audio, she tells APD just before they roll up on us that she’d spoken to us, gave them Ty’s name and told them I was her grandpa. Though I blamed her (unfairly) both at the scene and in the initial post, falsely thinking she’d called in the cavalry, she did not. In fact, in the scheme of things she got it right. Basically two departments with overlapping jurisdictions responded to this complaint: One came at us based on a community policing approach where she walked up calmly, asked a few questions, and according to her report was satisfied and had begun to return to her shift until she heard on the radio APD was coming. By contrast, APD handcuffed first and asked questions later. That’s the big difference between the two departments’ approaches.