SCHERTZ, Texas — The arrest of an 18-year-old man is under investigation by the Schertz Police Department, the agency confirmed Wednesday. The announcement comes after video of the man's arrest was widely circulated on social media.
Police said Zekee Rayford ran a stop light Monday evening and when officers attempted to stop him, he continued driving into the Wilsons Preserve neighborhood before pulling into the driveway of a home in the 1100 block of Keanna Place.
Rayford's sister, Tamecca Thomas, told KENS 5 her brother did not want to pull off to the side of the unlit road and drove to his father's home nearby.
"My dad has had the talk with my brother about what it is being an African-American kid in America," Thomas said. "What you do when you come in contact with the police officer. So my brother did what he thought was best, which I feel like was smart because, I feel like if he hadn't made the choice that he made to pull into the driveway, we would be having a different talk at this moment. We would probably be saying RIP."
Thomas shared home surveillance video of the moments after Rayford pulled into the driveway. In the video, he's seen exiting the car and raising his hands as officers command him to get on the ground. Rayford can be heard telling the officers, with his hands up, "I'm going to my door."
Two officers are seen chasing Rayford to the door, tackling him and attempting to get him in handcuffs. Video captures the moments Rayford screams, pounding on the front door of the home calling for his dad.
Officers repeatedly tell Rayford to get on the ground, to which he responds he already is on the ground. The video shows officers stun and kick Rayford as he cries out.
"Had he just stopped where they wanted him to stop, he would be dead at that moment," Thomas said.
The department did not indicate the distance between the initiation of the traffic stop and Rayford's home in its news release.
Thomas said her brother didn't charge at officers, showed his hands and told them he was going to the door. They believe the force used by police was excessive.
Rayford's father is seen answering the door asking officers why they tased the 18-year-old. Officers are heard telling Rayford and his father that he is under arrest.
At one point in the video, one officer is heard acknowledging he tased Rayford, telling Rayford's father, a combat veteran, "You better relax or you’re gonna get it next. I promise you you will."
"For anyone to say it was justifiable is sickening," Thomas said of the force used by officers. "And I question their morals, their values -- I question, all those things, their integrity."
Former Houston area police officer, judge and now-trial attorney Charles Adams said he disagrees with Rayford's family, saying "you cannot just let someone flee a traffic stop."
"He gets out of the car and runs away. He runs to the front door. And at this point, law enforcement has no idea why he's fleeing or what's going on," Adams said. "And the police have an absolute responsibility to chase suspects and figure out what's happening. Now, in the second video where he's pinned against the wall calling for his father, you do see a lot of aggressive police conduct trying to effect the arrest. But he is also fighting with them and refusing to comply."
Rayford is facing felony and misdemeanor charges of evading arrest, resisting arrest and possession of marijuana. Rayford is also facing other charges from a previous incident.
"He took simple stuff: Possession of marijuana in a traffic violation and snowballed it into something that can have a serious impact on his life," Adams said. "And he shouldn't have."
Adams said while he believes Rayford escalated the situation, the officers' conduct was unprofessional and at times, more than necessary.
"Once he's pinned on the ground, why do three officers need to taser one kid? Why do we have leg strikes after he is pinned on the ground?" Adams said. "I understand they're trying to use pain compliance to get him handcuffed, but it did seem a little bit much. None of it seemed criminal, but some of it seemed unprofessional."
Adams said both sides could have done more to reach a better outcome. Thomas said she believes it speaks to what African American men endure at the hands of law enforcement on a regular basis.
"I know everyone's going to say, 'It's not a race thing, it's not a race thing.' Or we have those that say that it's not a race thing," Thomas said. "This is how African-Americans are treated here in America every day."
Adams said while he agrees it's important for people of any color to have a conversation with their children about what to do when stopped by police, he does not believe the conversation resonated with Rayford.
"That is not at all what you're supposed to do when you get pulled over," Adams said. "Drive to a lit area. Stop. Keep your hands visible.
"Don't drive away and then get out of your car and run away. There's absolutely no justification for it."
Thomas said she hopes officers are held to account for their actions.
"The police love to hold us accountable for our actions and what we do," Thomas said. "So why won't they be held accountable for their actions and what they've done?"
The Schertz Police Department released the following statement Thursday night, but did not immediately release a police report for the incident:
"The Schertz Police Department is committed to serving our community with understanding and the highest integrity, while upholding our guiding principles. In doing so, our officers are expected to maintain the highest ethical and moral standards in every interaction with those we serve. As a police department, we welcome concerns or feedback on ways that we, as a department, can improve, especially when those concerns involve our officers and their interactions with the community.
At this time, we are actively investigating the incident involving Zekee Rayford and cannot comment further on the investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, if any policy infractions are discovered staff will be held accountable and appropriate actions will be taken.
The Schertz Police Department is and will remain committed to serving our community and providing a safe place for all."