The first time Ryan Moats touched a football in an NFL game he ran it 40-yards for a touchdown. That was part of an 11-carry 114-yard debut for the Philadelphia Eagles rookie.
This would seem to be a charmed life. Currently, Moats plays for the Houston Texans in the football mad Lone Star State. But none of that protected Moats from one of the uglier cases of DWB (driving while black) that’s come across the wires. Moats’ money and fame couldn’t insulate him.
But a police dashboard video camera recorded the ugly interaction shedding light on a practice all too common in these United States.
Moats was rushing, hazard lights on, with his wife, Tamishia and her family to the Baylor Regional Medical Center. Tamishia’s mother, Joanetta, Collinsworth, was dying from advanced breast cancer, and the hospital put out the word that they had to get to her bedside right away if they wanted to say good bye.
But then their lives collided with the 25-year-old Powell, and the Moats family ordeal became something more than a personal tragedy.
Powell pulled the Moats family over in the hospital parking lot for rolling through a red light. Tamishia jumped out of the car to rush to her mother, and Powell drew his gun, yelling, “Get in there! Let me see your hands!”
“My mom is dying,” she shouted back.
“I saw in his eyes that he really did not care,” Tamishia Moats said. Ms. Moats and her great-aunt ignored the officer and headed into the hospital. (Powell says he “merely” drew his gun, while Ms. Moats says it was pointed at her as she rushed in the facility. Ryan Moats has said that he feared for her life.)
Ryan Moats and his grandfather in law—the father of the dying Ms. Collinsworth, were then kept for 13 minutes. “You really want to go through this right now?” Moats pleaded. “My mother-in-law is dying. Right now!”
The response was the threat of arrest. “I can screw you over. I would rather not do that. You obviously will dictate everything that happens; and right now, your attitude sucks.”
Moats tried to explain why he rolled through a red light: “I waited until no traffic was coming. I got seconds before she’s gone, man.” Powell responded that he wanted a license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Moats began to lose patience and said, “Just give me a ticket or whatever.” “Shut your mouth,” Powell told him. “You can cooperate and settle down, or I can just take you to jail for running a red light.”
After Moats urged him to hurry up so he could be there with his wife, Powell—in a slow cadence—spoke down to Moats like he was a toddler. “If you want to keep this going, I’ll just put you in handcuffs,” Powell said, “and I’ll take you to jail for running a red light.”
Moats began to say “Yes sir” repeatedly, clearly trying to be done with the Officer.
But Powell wasn’t done. “Understand what I can do,” he continued. “I can tow your truck. I can charge you with fleeing. I can make your night very difficult.” “I understand,” Moats responded. “I hope you’ll be a great person and not do that.”
As this is taking place, hospital security guards rushed to the scene to tell Powell that Ms. Collinsworth was on death’s door.
Powell ignored them, wasting several more minutes checking Moats for arrest warrants. Then a nurse ran to the car insisting that the Moats family be allowed inside.
“Hey, that’s the nurse,” another officer can be heard telling Powell. “She said that the mom’s dying right now, and she’s wanting to know if they can get him up there before she dies.” “ All right,” Powell replied. “I’m almost done.”
Moats and the father of Jonetta Collinsworth, then ran inside, but unlike Ms. Moats, did not make it to Ms. Collinsworth’s bedside in time to say goodbye.
The furor generated by the videotape has led Powell to be reassigned and the ticket to be dismissed. Police spokesperson Lt. Andy Harvey said, “There were some things that were said that were disturbing, to say the least.”
This wasn’t the first “high profile arrest” for Powell. He placed Maritza Thomas, the wife of former Dallas Cowboy linebacker Zach Thomas in cuffs and then prison for three hours.
The crime: an illegal u-turn. "This in no way compares to what happened to Ryan Moats and his family," Zach Thomas told The Dallas Morning News. "But we wanted to tell our story, not knowing how many others have been affected by Officer Powell….”
Moats said after the fact, "For him to not even be sympathetic at all, and basically we're dogs or something and we don't matter — it basically shocked me," he said.
It is shocking, but it isn’t rare.
According to the most recent Justice Department report, Blacks were almost three times as likely as whites to be searched at a traffic stop. They were also twice as likely to be arrested, and almost four times as likely to be the victim of “excessive force.”
This is also the latest of a series of high profile confrontations between cops and jocks.
When you layer the “driving while black” pandemic on top of the dynamic of pro athletes more comfortable on a pedestal than in a police car, you have a recipe for future tragedies. Let the Moats’s ordeal serve as a warning and not a harbinger. And let Officer Powell be compelled to find another line of work.