Little Rock couple claims State Trooper pointed rifle at them, sends letter to Arkansas State Police

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Little Rock man is upset, mad, confused and disappointed after he says an Arkansas State trooper pointed a rifle at him and his girlfriend.

The couple says it happened on June 2, while they were driving home near the backside of the Governor’s Mansion.

They sent a certified letter to Col. Bryant asking why it happened.

James Andre Pendleton and Keya Cooley spoke to our Re’Chelle Turner and feels they were targeted.

That same night, hundreds of protesters marched from the State Capitol to the entrance of the Governor’s Mansion. The couple says they never participated in the protest and were trying to get home.

They live on Louisiana Street, which is less than a block from the Governor’s District.

“As we got close to the Governor’s Mansion rear gate a guy dressed in military outfit he had on the helmet and bulletproof vest ran out in the street with an M-16 with a real bright light on it and a laser,” Pendleton said.

The couple says it happened between 8:00 and 8:30 pm. They stopped the car and says the trooper never put his rifle down.

“He stood in front of it, he had his head down just like that he never moved,” Keya Cooley said.

Pendleton says another state trooper was parked in the driveway of the gate at the backside of the mansion.

“He walked up to the passenger side and said where are y’all going…what are you doing. I said we are going home. I asked him why is this guy pointing this gun at us he said we are just trying to keep everyone safe,” Pendleton said.

“I was actually numb. I was just kind of like really…I’ve never had a gun pulled on me,” Cooley said.

After several minutes passed, the couple says the troopers told them they could go home. They say the story could have been much different.

“If the state trooper wasn’t standing here who knows what would have happened. He could have said we tried to run him over. He could have said anything,” Pendleton said.

The couple says they incident was unnecessary.

June 2 is also the day Governor Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency because of the previous nights’ protests.

He ordered a Unified Command led by Arkansas State Police and called up about 100 National Guard members.

“He never said anything no I’m sorry or we are doing this as a precautionary measure he never said anything,” Cooley said.

We reached out to State Police who say this is their first time hearing about the incident. They started a search on the troopers who were in the area that night.

“I don’t expect the truth and they will probably tell us the video doesn’t exist and we know there are plenty of cameras around the Governor’s Mansion,” Pendleton said.

A night they will never forget.

“We were just trying to get home,” he said.

State police say they have not received the certified letter that Mr. Pendleton sent on Wednesday.

Mr. Pendleton says he’s also spoke to attorney, but not sure what he will do next.

Here is a copy of the letter Mr. Pendleton wrote.

Dear Colonel Bryant:
I am highly pissed, I am hurt, I am shaken, I am confused and very disappointed. These understatements represent my consternation with the recent actions of the Arkansas State Police near my home. I have been a resident of Little Rock for more than thirty years. I have been in business for 28 years as a State Farm agent. I am educated, I do not wear a do-rag, my pants do not sag, and I pay taxes that support services like the state police. I am a 62-year-old African- American man with a loving family and friends who love me.

On Tuesday evening June 2, 2020, between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., after working a long day, I was on my way home in my car with my girlfriend, Keya Cooley. Ms. Cooley is a registered nurse, a mother, and a grandmother. She is an educated African-American woman who was not wearing a satin bonnet and did not appear threatening in any way. She was driving my black Mercedes Benz E320. We approached the 2000 block of Louisiana Street and were about to pass the rear gate of the governor’s mansion which we pass several times daily. As we got closer while traveling less than thirty miles per hour, a white male dressed in military fatigues came out in a posture ready for battle. He did not say a word, did not wave his hand or anything; he just ran out with his M-16 ready to shoot us. The M-16 had a bright blinding light on it with a red laser dot pointed at Keya’s chest. Once we stopped, a young African-American man in a state police uniform walked up to the passenger side and asked me where we were going. I said, “We are going to my house which is right up the street.” I asked why this guy was pointing a gun at us. His reply was, “We are trying to keep everyone safe.” After a short hesitation, I asked again why he was pointing a gun at us. The reply was the same. As I described us earlier, there was no reason to believe that we were trying to cause harm to anyone.

I realize that the protesters were in route to the governor’s mansion to protest at the front gate of the mansion a few blocks away, but there were no protesters insight of where we were and no cars on the street. We were not protesters. Once the state trooper told the guy dressed in military fatigues to let us through, then and only then, did he lower his M-16.

I don’t know if you have ever had to look down the barrel of an M-16; it is an unpleasant experience. In today’s times, it appears the ones who took an oath to serve and protect us seem to have taken that oath to mean it is open season on us. I know for a fact that we could not for one second have made that guy think we were a threat. I think he was an anxious white policeman with a gun ready to do battle and all the while claiming to do it out of fear for his life. If the trooper had not been there, this story very well could have had a much different ending. By the way, my home is in viewing distance of the road where the trooper pointed his M-16. For thirty minutes after our incident, I watched from my stoop as traffic went by the same spot we had traveled. As other cars traversed the same area, no trooper emerged with a gun drawn on any of those cars. Please help me understand why we were singled out as citizens who might generate a concern for safety.

Keya and I work to live a peaceful and upstanding life in the state and community; and to be treated with such great disrespect and alarm is more than I care to think about. I have gone over this in my mind a hundred times daily thinking what if. What if this guy had shot, what if his finger had slipped, what if he lied and said we were trying to run him over. I do not think the story would have been told the way I am telling it.

I hope you have or will look at the video, and do not tell me it does not exist. You have it and may have already viewed it. In our current climate, I do not even expect to get the truth. I am slow to trust the police in anything right now. Since we cannot turn back the clock on that incident, I am asking that you provide professional training of at least fourteen hours for your troopers that includes implicit and explicit bias training. That training should also address diversity, equity, and in inclusion in community and state policing. That is just the beginning. Follow-up sessions to increase the capacity of police and state troopers to understand the racial divide in America, particularly in the South, will help all citizens of color. And yes, I would like an apology from that young man. We did not deserve to be treated the way he treated us.

I am mad as hell, and I hope you will follow-up with your troopers, explain why the situation was so harmful to me and Keya, and offer professional training to the officers. This event was the most traumatic event that I have ever experienced. It seems to be open season on black folks and people of color in general, and no one is being held accountable. Please take the knee (the law) off our necks!


Sincerely,

James André Pendleton Keya Cooley

We sent the letter to state police, here’s what they said.

Re’Chelle during the past two hours I have documented some limited information of a purported incident similar to what you have described.

Earlier this week, a third-party, not directly involved in the incident, provided a verbal report of a man and woman who were stopped by authorities near the governor’s residence the same night protesters were approaching the neighborhood.

The email I received from you this afternoon, containing correspondence from Mr. Pendleton, is the first statement we’ve seen or heard directly from Mr. Pendleton, albeit indirectly. As of Friday afternoon (today, June 12, 2020, 3:55 PM) a letter from Mr. Pendleton that you tell me was directed by certified U.S. Postal Service to Colonel Bryant, has not been received.

Based on the allegations from the third-party received on Monday, almost a week after the purported incident, a search was initiated to account for all Arkansas State Police personnel who were assigned to the Governor’s Mansion District. As of a few moments ago, no one has been identified who knows anything about these allegations, however, the search is continuing and will not stop until all state troopers who were in the area have been questioned. Please take into account that on the night the incident is said to have occurred, there were state troopers from as far away as Jonesboro who were on temporary assignment in the Little Rock area. Please stay in touch with me and I will share with you our findings.

Public Information Officer Bill Sadler from Arkansas State Police

We also asked state police did surveillance cameras capture anything the night of the incident and what are the rules when it comes to using a laser aiming device.

Below is the response from Arkansas State Police on the incident.

1.    Were there any surveillance cameras in the area the night of the incident?

Arkansas Code Annotated §12-8-108 (*see below, sub-section c) prohibits the acknowledgement as to whether such equipment may or may not exist at the location you’ve identified.   
ACA §12-8-108

(a) The Division of Arkansas State Police shall be responsible for the safety and security of the:

(1) Governor and his or her family;

(2) Lieutenant Governor and his or her family;

(3) Governor’s Mansion and mansion grounds; and

(4) State Capitol Building and State Capitol grounds.

(b) The division is authorized to assign officers of the division in such numbers and to such locations as is necessary to carry out the responsibility imposed on the division by this section.

(c) Data, records, surveillance footage, security procedures, emergency plans, and other information compiled or possessed by the division concerning the Governor’s Mansion and mansion grounds are confidential and not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act of 1967, § 25-19-101 et seq.

2.    What are the rules when it comes to using a laser aiming device?

Attached is a copy of the Arkansas State Police Policy and Procedures Manual.  Within the manual you will applicable sections related to use of firearms and other equipment, however, you should be cognizant that these directives are limited to employees of the Arkansas State Police.  Personnel from any other federal or local entity authorized to possess and use such devices as described by Mr. Pendelton would be sanctioned by their agency’s own policies and procedures which may differ from those of the Arkansas State Police.

I encourage you to recall my earlier statement (*Friday, June 12, 2020) acknowledging that Arkansas State Police commanders are reviewing personnel assignments for the evening in question in an attempt to identify the individual Mr. Pendleton describes as a white male, “dressed in military fatigues” who would have been assigned such equipment as you’ve inquired about under Question # 2 of this latest email.

The review of assignments has not been completed.

3.    Our state police allowed to use those at any time?

They sent us a list of rules a statutes. Click below to view them.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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