Dallas Officer Delays NFL Player as Relative Dies

Chief: DPD is "embarrassed and disappointed"

By Omar Villafranca
|  Saturday, Mar 28, 2009  |  Updated 6:24 AM PDT
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What should be done with officer Powell?

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Officer Delays NFL Player as Relative Dies

A Dallas police officer detained an NFL player in a hospital parking lot despite his pleas that his mother-in-law was dying inside.

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A traffic stop that detained an NFL player in a hospital parking lot despite his pleas that his mother-in-law was dying is sparking outrage across the country.

Dallas Police Officer Robert Powell pulled over Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats' sport utility vehicle outside Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano as he and his relatives were hurrying to see his dying mother-in-law on March 18.

Callers are tying up 911 lines to complain about the stop. Police are asking people to stop calling 911 to sound off about the incident, because the calls are keeping dispatchers from responding to emergencies.

People are also calling the police department directly -- some from as far away as Lansdale, Pa., Washington, D.C., and New York City. Dallas police estimated Thursday night they are getting about 150 calls per hour.

Moats spoke with Kevin Scott and Greg Hill on 105.3 The Fan KRLD-FM on Thursday about the incident. Click here to listen.

Video from a dashboard camera inside the officer's vehicle revealed an intense exchange in which the officer threatened to jail Moats.

He ordered Moats' wife, Tamishia Moats, to get back in the SUV, but she ignored him and rushed inside the hospital. She was by the side of Jonetta Collinsworth, 45, when her mother died a short time later.

Collinsworth had breast cancer.

"Get in there," said Powell, yelling at 27-year-old Tamishia Moats, as she exited the car. "Let me see your hands!"

"Excuse me, my mom is dying," Tamishia Moats said. "Do you understand?"

Moats explained that he waited until there was no traffic before proceeding through the red light and that his mother-in-law was dying, right then. Moats couldn't find his insurance paperwork and was desperate to leave.

"Listen, if I can't verify you have insurance...," Powell said.

"My mother-in-law is dying," Moats interrupted.

As they argued, the officer got irritated.

"Shut your mouth," Powell said. "You can either settle down and cooperate, or I can just take you to jail for running a red light."

At one point during the stop, a nurse walked out from the hospital and talked to a guard. The guard walked up to Powell and can be heard saying, "Hey, that's the nurse, she said that the mom is dying right now. And she's the one saying get him up there right now before she passes."

On the video, Powell can be heard saying, "All right. OK, I'm almost done."

Powell can be seen walking toward Moats and handing him the ticket.

"Attitude is everything, OK?" he is heard saying. "All you had to do was stop and tell me what was going on, more than likely, I would have let you go."

A nurse interrupted and told Powell, "It's probably our fault. We scared them half to death because their mom, we're coding her for the third time."

Coding is a medical term for starting a persons heart back up by chest pumps or defibrillation.

By the time the 26-year-old NFL player received a ticket and a lecture from Powell, at least 13 minutes had passed.

When he and Collinsworth's father entered the hospital, they learned she was dead, the Dallas Morning News reported in Thursday's editions.

Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle said Thursday that Powell, 25, will be placed on leave with pay pending an internal investigation over the March 18 incident.

"In the course of everything we deal with in a year, this is more embarassing and troublesome because it just seems to be so unreasonable based on the circumstances," Kunkle said at a press conference.

"The Dallas Police Department shares your feelings of disappointment and outrage," the department said in an official response posted on their Web site Thursday. "The behavior exhibited by Officer Powell does not reflect the professionalism expected from our officers."

At no point during the exchange with Powell did Moats mention he was an NFL player.

Kunkle said Moats handled himself very well.

"I really felt bad for them, because I know they were just in tears," Jordan Woy, Moats' agent, told the Associated Press. "Not only were they really sad about (Moats) ... not getting a chance to see the mother-in-law, but you get shaken up when you're in that sort of situation."

The Moats, who are black, said they can't help but think that race might have played a part in how Powell, who is white, treated them.

"I think he should lose his job," said Moats, who is a Dallas native.

The ticket issued to Moats was dismissed, Lt. Andy Harvey said.

Powell has been with Dallas police for three years.

A copy of Powell's Internal Affairs Officer's Resume, shows the 25-year-old has received complaints and corrective action for violation of the department's sick leave policy and for failing to contact a supervisor.

When asked what the procedure is for pulling over someone in a medical emergency, Kunkle said there is no official teaching at the police academy. Instead, officers should use their best judgement, he said.

"I think even someone who has never been through police training should know how to handle this incident. This is an area of common sense," Kunkle said.

Powell told police officials he believed he was doing his job, said Assistant Chief Floyd Simpson.

Moats, a third-round choice of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005 out of Louisiana Tech, was cut by the Eagles in August and later signed with the Texans. In three seasons as a backup, he's rushed for 441 yards and scoured four touchdowns.

He was a standout at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, rushing for more than 2,600 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior.

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