Nehls: Issues with Patriots Player’s Traffic Stop was Inexperience, Not Racism

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RICHMOND (Covering Fort Bend News) – Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls says any issues with the traffic stop involving a New England Patriots linebacker involved inexperience on the rookie deputy’s part rather than racism.

The traffic stop occurred around 10 p.m. March 10, 2019 in the Pecan Groove subdivision. Elandon Roberts was pulled over for speeding, with the stop ending in the driveway of Roberts’ home. Roberts immediately stepped out of the vehicle, which prompted Deputy Watkins to call for back-up, describing Roberts to dispatchers as a “big, black male.” Watkins told Roberts to get back in the vehicle and put his hands on the wheel and Roberts complied.

At one point, Roberts’ wife came out of the home and was told by Watkins to get back inside “for her own safety” and said she would be arrested if she did not comply.

Most of the more than 16-minute traffic stop was spent waiting for backup to arrive. Once Watkins approached the vehicle, he issued Roberts a citation for going 59 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone and failure to provide proof of insurance. Once the citation was signed, Watkins told Roberts he was free to go.

Yesterday, USA Today Sports journalist A.J. Perez released a 1 minute and 33 second clip from the traffic stop which included the deputy’s reference of a “big black male,” and added music to the clip that made it very hard to hear any interaction between Watkins and Roberts.

“What Mr. Perez chose to do was edit the video to his liking,” said Nehls. “He edited the video to his liking and certainly with a false narrative.”

Watkins’ Patrol Captain Steve Holtz said Watkins had only been on duty for three or four months when the traffic stop occurred. Watkins told Holtz he had never had a motorist get out of his vehicle immediately after being stopped, and it made him nervous.

“Were there some things I thought we could retrain and do better at? Absolutely,” said Holtz. “Should he have yelled at his wife because she stood out there on the porch? No, I don’t think so.”

Holtz said that with his own 30 years of experience, he would not have called for backup in that situation but that he has to “view it through the eyes of someone who has only been on the road for three or four months.”

Holtz said he reviewed the dash-cam footage with Watkins shortly after the stop and Watkins was receptive to Holtz’s criticism and eventually asked if he could change the citations to a warning. Holtz agreed, and the charges were reduced.

Nehls was asked by a reporter if he had any issues with Roberts being referred to as a “big, black man.”

“He didn’t refer to him as a big, black man. He referred to him as a big, black male,” said Nehls.

He then pointed to Holtz and said, “He is a big, white male, is he not?”

“If Mr. Roberts would have run from the scene, how would Deputy Watkins give a physical description? He described Mr. Roberts when he got out of his vehicle as a ‘big, black male,’ and he is. What has happened is that Mr. Perez and some of you in this room are trying to make this a racial issue and it is not.”

Nehls said following the incident Roberts came to his office and they had a very “professional” conversation about the stop. Nehls apologized for the length of the traffic stop and thought the issue was over until the release of the edited USA Today video yesterday.

“Let me tell you something about Fort Bend County,” said Nehls. “Fort Bend County is the most diverse county in the entire country. We are successful, not just the sheriff’s office but law enforcement in the entire county, with dealing with the citizens we serve because of the relationships we have built. The public trusts us and we trust them.”

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