On Friday, February 10, a middle-aged white man named Scott Henson was walking his 5-year-old black granddaughter Ty home from an Austin, Texas rollerskating rink when several police cars suddenly surrounded them, and officers aggressively approached Henson demanding he “step away from the child.”
In his blog “Grits for Breakfast,” retired journalist and self-described “Texas redneck,” Scott Henson chronicles not one, but two encounters he’s had with his local Texas police (2008 and 2012) where he was stopped and questioned simply for walking down the street holding the hand of Ty, who happens to be black.
Friday’s incident occurred during what was supposed to be a pleasant walk home, but Henson said that it turned into a nightmare. Henson describes on his blog how patrol cars came out of nowhere and swarmed around him and his granddaughter.
“As soon as we crossed the street, just two blocks from my house as the crow flies, the police car that just passed us hit its lights and wheeled around, with five others appearing almost immediately, all with lights flashing. The officers got out with tasers drawn demanding I raise my hands and step away from the child. I complied, and they roughly cuffed me, jerking my arms up behind me needlessly. Meanwhile, Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying,” Henson says.
Henson said that Austin police proceeded to question his relationship to the girl, with one superior officer saying, “When we get a call about a possible kidnapping we have to take it very seriously.” This wouldn’t be completely egregious if it weren’t for the fact that police had questioned him earlier the same day. Perhaps there been two separate “anonymous calls” placed to 911 reporting a possible kidnapping? Henson asserts that this was harassment was nothing short of racial profiling.
In November 2008, Henson said, a police car pulled up beside Ty and him while they were walking home from a neighborhood park. “Someone had called 911, she [the officer] said, to report a suspicious looking white man walking down the street holding hands with a black toddler,” he writes on his blog.
During both encounters with police, Henson says, he vehemently resisted giving away personal or familial information about Ty and him. “Not wanting to violate the failure to identify statute, I gave her my name, address and birth date, but refused to answer any other questions,” he says of the incident in 2008.
Henson describes at length how both ordeals have left him fearing that his granddaughter will grow up not trusting law enforcement. For her part, according to the blog post Ty has made her own deductions, telling her grandpa in an exchange after the first incident, “the police should leave you alone. It’s not right that they want to arrest you for being my Grandpa.”
Update: A police spokesman has commented that Henson is making this situation into a “racial thing” and that the police simply responded to a kidnapping complaint.