Another questionable arrest in a small town is raising more concerns about the state of policing in rural America. A man was repeatedly struck by police in Paducah, Texas, during an encounter that was caught on video and shared with PAR. We examine the arrest and discuss how it demonstrates the unchecked power of law enforcement in rural communities to inflict suffering on the people they’re ostensibly serving and to extract a disproportionate share of public resources.
Pre-Production: Stephen Janis
Studio/Post-Production: Stephen Janis, Dwayne Gladden
Taya Graham: Hello. My name is Taya Graham, and welcome to the Police Accountability Report. As I always make clear, this show has a single purpose: holding the politically powerful institution of policing accountable. And to do so, we don’t just focus on the bad behavior of individual cops. Instead, we examine the system that makes bad policing possible. And today we will achieve that goal by reporting on a questionable arrest in rural America that you are seeing now in this video. It is yet another example of police violence in small communities that continues to surface as we broaden our investigation into over policing in small towns across the country.
But before we get started, I want you to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct, please email it to us privately at [email protected], and please like, share, and comment on our videos. You know I read your comments and that I appreciate them. And of course you can always reach out to me directly at @tayasbaltimore on Facebook or Twitter. And if you can, please hit the Patreon donate link pin in the comments below, because we do have some extras there for our PAR family. All right. We’ve gotten all that out of the way.
Now, as with any topic we report on, individual stories can sometimes be merely anecdotal, not necessarily an exemplar of a trend. But occasionally when we see similar stories surface over and over again, it behooves us to examine if they are representative of broader systemic problems, and I think the video you’re watching now is an example of the latter. The video you’re seeing right now shows the arrest of Travis Bateman by the Paducah, Texas, sheriff’s department six months ago. Deputies had stopped Travis and his fiance after his ex-wife called 911 when the couple walked past her house with their dog. The officers accused Travis of entering the property of his ex-wife. The pair denied the accusation, and the sheriff promised to return after reviewing video from the home in question. But as one of the deputies was driving away, Travis called out to his dog, prompting the sheriff to stop his car and jump out, and then this ensued. Let’s watch.
[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]
Travis Bateman: Mark, hear me.
Mark Box: Hands.
Travis Bateman: My hand is right here. I’m not fucking resisting you.
Mark Box: Hands behind the back.
Travis Bateman: Dude, I’m not –
Dorian Turner: Mark, he wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Mark Box: Hands behind your –
Dorian Turner: God damn. This is fucking ridiculous.
Travis Bateman: We’re recording him.
Mark Box: Hands. Last order.
Travis Bateman: My hands are right here. You can handcuff me in the front.
Dorian Turner: Mark, stop. Leave him alone.
[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: We spoke to Travis’s fiance Dorian Turner, who described to us what happened when Travis was taken to the ground by the deputies. Let’s watch. And as we do, let’s listen to her explain.
[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]
Dorian Turner: Well, we were walking, and his ex-wife called and said that we were in her house. And so they didn’t even go and ask her any questions. They came straight to us and started asking us questions. We just walked by her house, and she called and said that we were in her house.
[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: And finally, with Travis protesting his arrest and police refusing to relent, this happens. A physical assault. Let’s watch. And before we do, I want to warn viewers that this video is disturbing.
[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]
Travis Bateman: …Me in the front.
Dorian Turner: Mark, stop. Leave him alone. Leave him alone. God damn it. Mark, you’re a pussy. Baby, baby, here. Y’all are fucking mean. Y’all are wrong for what you’re doing. He wasn’t doing anything. [Duchess] get over here.
Travis Bateman: Record him [inaudible] going down.
Dorian Turner: God damn. You’re fucking mean, Mark.
Mark Box: One more and I’m going to fuck you up.
Dorian Turner: Baby, stop. Just don’t move.
Mark Box: [inaudible].
Travis Bateman: For what?
Mark Box: Give me your arm.
[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: And unfortunately, Travis’s ordeal is only just beginning. That is because the Cottle County court ordered him held without bail. Separately, the sheriff’s department has also convinced a judge to declare him incompetent, meaning he has been in jail for six months with no prospects for release. Let’s remember, up until this encounter with the deputies, he had not been formally accused of committing a crime. The only charges that have arisen are specific to the arrest itself, namely resisting arrest and obstruction. So, how does a man who has not been convicted of a crime end up in jail for six months, bloodied and bruised by police, while authorities stonewall? Well, that’s just the question we will try to answer today. And for more on that, I’m joined by my reporting partner Stephen Janis, who has been investigating the case. Steven, thank you for joining me
Stephen Janis: Taya, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Taya Graham: So, first, you reached out to the sheriff’s office. What did they tell you?
Stephen Janis: Well, this is what’s really interesting. I called the sheriff’s office like two or three times. No one answers the phone. I mean, I don’t really know what to say. There was no one answering the phone there, no one answering the phone at the prosecutor’s office. They didn’t even have an answering machine. So, it’s been a very weird thing. I would encourage anybody to call them. If they can get in touch, let me know.
Taya Graham: We know from our investigation so far, no paperwork has been given to his family regarding his arrest. What have you learned about that lack of transparency?
Stephen Janis: Well, what the problem is is that I think looking at some of the budget and the way this particular town operates, is that everything’s kind of part-time. So, what’s really scary about that is someone can just be put in the system, and it’s very hard to figure out where they are and why they’re there and how long they’re going to be there, because nobody is actually manning the phone. So, it’s a very scary system that I think you can almost disappear a person into.
Taya Graham: And finally, what can you tell us about this rural community and the sheriff’s department? What have you discovered about the political economy of policing there?
Stephen Janis: Taya, you have a $1.1 million budget, but a lot of those revenues go to law enforcement and it’s not really clear why. but as you can see, that law enforcement has a tremendous amount of power. I think what’s scary about this is because you don’t have sort of the other institutions that are as well funded, there’s so much power concentrating in the sheriff that I think the sheriff feels like he can make arrests like this and doesn’t really have anyone to be held accountable to. I think it shows the great risks of powerful law enforcement in rural communities that are poor, because law enforcement sucks up a lot of the money, and therefore there are no institutions to hold them accountable like media. And it’s really ultimately very scary.
Taya Graham: And now we’re joined by Travis’s fiance, Dorian Turner, to give us an update on the case and how this arrest has affected both her and Travis. Dorian, thank you for joining us.
Dorian Turner: Thank you.
Taya Graham: So, can you tell me why the officer approached you and your fiance?
Dorian Turner: Well, we were walking, and his ex-wife called and said that we were in her house. And so they didn’t even go and ask her any questions, they came straight to us and started asking us questions. We just walked by her house and she called and said that we were in her house.
Taya Graham: But wasn’t there evidence that you did not go into the house?
Dorian Turner: Yeah, she has cameras on the outside of her house. So, they could have gone over there and investigated it before they came and talked to us.
Taya Graham: Why did you walk by the house?
Dorian Turner: Well, we were just taking the dog for a walk and we went a block up, and then just all the way down the street, and then back around to our house. And her house is on the next block over.
Taya Graham: What did the officer first say when he encountered you?
Dorian Turner: Well, he’s like, Dorian, can I talk to you? And I was like, for what? Did I do something wrong? And he was like, well, did you? And I was like, walking the dog. Is there something with walking the dog? And he’s like, no, did you go into somebody’s house? I was like, no? And then here comes the sheriff and he pulls up and he’s like, you know people have video cameras on outside of their house? And I’m like, yeah, and they’re allowed to. I said, can you go check and see? Because we didn’t go in her house. We walked right by her house.
Taya Graham: How did the officer respond to your request to review the homeowner’s footage?
Dorian Turner: He’s like, well, if I go over there and find out differently, I will come back for an arrest warrant for you, Travis.
Taya Graham: How did things turn so badly? How did things escalate so suddenly?
Dorian Turner: Well, I was like, are we free to go? Can we go now? And he’s like, yeah, you’re free to go. So, they both get in their vehicles and start driving off. And we have our dog with us, and it’s a big old lab. We don’t have her on a leash, she just walks right next to us most of the time. And we started walking off and T started yelling at the dog, and I guess Mark Box thought he was talking to him. And he slams his vehicle and parks and jumps out, was asking T for his driver’s license, knowing that we don’t have it on us because we’ve been walking.
Taya Graham: Why was your fiance in cuffs? Did the officer ever say what the probable cause was or why he was being arrested? Did the officer ever explain why he was arresting him?
Dorian Turner: No. He just kept on asking him for his driver’s license, and I’m like, Mark Box, you know we don’t have our stuff on us. We’ve been walking. We can go down to the house and get it if you need it. And he tried to grab T, and T just went like this, and he missed him. And that’s when Mark Box jumps on him and I wasn’t even thinking. T’s like, get your phone out and record this, Dorian. And I’m like, okay. So, I get it out. And by that time I’m yelling at the officer, and he’s already done elbowed him in the head. He’s got a big old gash on top of his head. I got the pictures of him when he was in jail with that on his head. He’s got scrapes on his arms and stuff like that. Knowing that T’s wrists are messed up, he could’ve arrested him and put his handcuffs in the front, but he won’t. So, that’s why T was like, put them on in the front and I’ll let you do it. And he wouldn’t do it.
Taya Graham: I noticed the familiarity with the officer didn’t seem to help. He said that he knew that Travis had mental health issues and that he had a medical issue with his wrist. Why didn’t this familiarity help you? I mean, this is a small town, so why did it make things worse?
Dorian Turner: We live in a little small town and everybody knows everybody. He knows T has not had his medicine and stuff, because we haven’t been able to get the [inaudible] to go get his medicine. And he knows how T is because he’s the one that arrests him. He’s been arrested nine times before that.
Taya Graham: Why did the officers start hitting your fiance? At a certain point you can see the blood pouring out of the back of his head. He didn’t appear to be fighting or attempting to run away. So, why did the officer strike him so many times?
Dorian Turner: He came and served T with some papers one time and he took his belt off, his gun off, his badge off and pulled T to come out to the street and we could fight out there a couple months before this happened.
Taya Graham: So, tell me about the sheriff’s department. Have there been other complaints about them? What is their reputation in the community?
Dorian Turner: Well, my mom’s friend, Carolyn, she has a daughter that’s mentally ill too. And he’s done almost the same thing with her. I asked her to send me pictures yesterday of the incident, and she has had cancer and she has a port right here in her chest area. And he already had her in handcuffs, and he put his knee in her shoulder right here right on top of the port on concrete. She’s got scrapes on her arm right here. Yes. He’s done it to several people here in town. Well, one guy, he can’t talk about it. I don’t know if he got compensated with anything or had to sign a paper or something. But yeah, he’s done it to several people.
Taya Graham: Has the media done any reporting on this police department?
Dorian Turner: He wanted me to send it to the news and I was kind of scared to, because I don’t know if they’ll come and, you know what I mean, try to say something to me about it or anything like that. I don’t know. But I was like, I got to do something because we haven’t heard anything. Nothing. His lawyer doesn’t want to help us. His lawyer hasn’t even called him since he’s been in there and it’s been six months. I had to call his lawyer the other day to see what was going on with this case. Because I mean, there’s no bond set. He’s sitting there just wondering, and nothing’s happening.
Taya Graham: I know you told me he had nine arrests before this, but what is his life like now?
Dorian Turner: ‘Till I either go talk to the judge and he’ll finally go and set a bond for him or something, but I’ve been having to work to go and try to get something done about it. We’ve been together a year and a half, and in the last six months of it he’s been in jail. And before that it was the nine arrests, and it’s been going on for the last year. So, ever since he got divorced from his ex-wife. See, I’ve never been in a relationship like this, and this is something out of this world. This is insane. Insane.
Taya Graham: What was your fiance actually charged with?
Dorian Turner: It was resisting arrest, terroristic threat, and assault on a police officer.
Taya Graham: You mentioned something here I almost didn’t see, which was that the officer took photographs of your fiance’s blood on his clothes and photos of his injuries. Do you know why he did that?
Dorian Turner: In the video you can see where Mark Box has blood on his pants from T, and he kind of did it on purpose. If you really pay attention, you can see where Mark Box kind of rubs his head to get it on his pants. And the officer walks over to his vehicle in the background and you can see him taking a picture and smiling where he has T’s blood on him. And in the emergency room he does the same thing. He takes the phone and holds it up like this, where he’s right here and T’s in the background, and taking a picture with T in handcuffs. Because he calls me as soon as he gets into the jailhouse, because you get that one phone call and that’s the first thing he tells me.
He’s like Dorian, he was taking another picture. This is the second time he’s done that. He came in and arrested him out here one time and there was no reason for him to take him to jail. And he had one handcuff on one wrist, and he was taking his arm and putting it all the way behind his back, pulling it up to his head and kicking his feet out from under him. Hey, three or four times he did that. He didn’t have his body cam on either. And I was like, why are you doing that? There’s no need for that. T’s wrists were so swollen when he got to the emergency. They had to take him to the emergency room that day, and that’s when he was taking that picture like that. Yeah.
Taya Graham: So, you said your fiance has been in jail for six months now without bail. Do you know why he is being held without possibility of bail? And do you know how much longer he may be locked up?
Dorian Turner: Well, all the lawyer tells me is because he’s incompetent. He’s not incompetent. He’s not at all. He’s taking his medicine. He can tell you everything. He just doesn’t understand why he is there.
Taya Graham: Now, as I said at the top of the show, there’s a difference between a few anecdotal stories,and an actual trend that points to a broader, more troubling reality. And that’s the question we of course have to answer as journalists. Is there more to these stories of bad arrests than meets the eye? Well, according to a presentation we just attended, absolutely yes. So, what do I mean? Well, the talk we attended was on a topic we have referenced many times on this show. It dealt with a surprising statistical analysis that controverts the current notion of mass incarceration in America. What we learned is that when it comes to larger state prisons, the trend is decidedly downward, meaning states and big cities are not building prisons and are decreasing inmate populations as a whole. But that doesn’t mean America’s addiction to mass incarceration is taking a breather, not even close. That’s because the construction of local jails is exploding.
If you look at this chart, local facilities are being constructed and expanded in rural communities around the country. And as the statistics show, when they build it, police fill it, often with nonviolent offenders and people addicted to drugs, the favorite fodder of our well-oiled drug war machine. And what’s really disturbing about this emphasis on local jails is how the data shows the primary goal is cash. That’s because jails often house people at the behest of the state. Inmates who have broken state laws and less need to be housed in a way that makes it look like mass incarceration is decreasing. And when local jails take on excess prisoners the cash rolls in, the inmates disappear from the state populations, and the local jails keep expanding. What’s really distressing about this trend is that much of the construction takes place in communities where other industries and drivers of economic growth have disappeared.
Take for example Eastern Kentucky, where the coal business has stalled, but jail building has boomed. I think the point here is that when we see an inexplicable arrest like Travis’s, we have to probe deeper to understand the imperative that is driving these arrests. When cops literally fabricate crimes to put people in handcuffs, we need to look at the systematic trends that incentivize the behaviors that would otherwise seem impossible to explain. What I mean is that we can’t just show a shocking arrest without talking about the broader and less visible power that rewards bad policing and punishes the people subject to its extremes. That’s why we will continue our investigation of rural and small town policing. And that’s why we’ll also hold the departments accountable who deserve the system instead of serving the people who deserve better. I want to thank Travis’s fiance, Dorian, for speaking out on his behalf. Thank you, Dorian. And of course I have to thank Intrepid reporter Stephen Janis for his writing, research, and editing on this piece. Thank you, Stephen.
Stephen Janis: Taya, thanks from me. I appreciate it.
Taya Graham: And I want to thank friend of the show Noli Dee for her support. Thanks, Nole Dee. And a shout out to our awesome mod Lacy R. Thanks, Lacy. And a very special thank you to our Patreons. We really do appreciate you. And I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please share it with us and we might be able to investigate for you. Please reach out to us. You can email us tips privately at [email protected] and share your evidence of police misconduct. You can also message us at Police Accountability Report on Facebook or Instagram, or @eyesonpolice on Twitter. And of course you can always message me directly @tayasbaltimore on Twitter or Facebook. And please like and comment. I do read your comments and appreciate them. And we do have a Patreon link pinned in the comments below. So, if you do feel inspired to donate, please do. We don’t run ads or take corporate dollars, so anything you can spare is greatly appreciated. My name is Taya Graham and I am your host of the Police Accountability Report. Please be safe out there.