The Texas Rangers have agreed to a request by the New Boston City Council to investigate Police Chief Tony King for firing a lieutenant without cause, racial discrimination in hiring and making taxpayer underwritten purchases without Council approval.
Citizens of this city of 4,500 in the far northeast corner of the state have alleged King has made arrests without probable cause in violation of their civil rights, City Council member Joe Dike told the Texarkana Gazette.
“People here are terrified of him,” Dike said. “I won’t stop until I get to the bottom of this. I have a duty to protect the city and to tell the truth. Thank God the Rangers are coming.”
Last Tuesday, during the same meeting, the Council directed Bowie County District Attorney Jerry Rochelle to request the Texas Rangers investigate, and voted to reinstate Lt. Johnny Millwood, dismissed without a reason by King on March 9.
Milwood is currently on paid administrative leave pending the Rangers’ investigation, according to KTBS-TV. However, Millwood’s status with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement is currently “terminated/separated.”
The Council inadvertently paved the way for Millwood’s dismissal when, in January, King asked for its approval of the city policy manual changes Dike said were described as “updates.” Among the updates was a rule change allowing a department head to fire any city employee without a right to appeal.
“I called King the day of the termination, and he said he couldn’t tell me (why Millwood was being fired),” Dike told the Gazette. “I believe the change to the personnel policy was made specifically so King could fire Millwood. We were told in January that it was a housekeeping matter and we passed it without ever seeing a copy. We didn’t know it removed the employee’s right to appeal. I feel we were misled.”
Butch Dunbar, a Texarkana attorney representing Millwood, said the Rangers — a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety — have been asked to investigate an allegation that King passed over a more qualified black officer to hire a white one, the story says.
In addition, King is alleged to have purchased a .50-caliber sniper rifle without Council approval.
Dike also gave the Gazette a written statement from a witness who said he saw King arrest a patron outside a local catfish restaurant more than a year ago. When the patron failed to clean up his dishes, King confronted him and although he tidied up, King followed him outside. When he would not provide his name, King arrested him, the story says.
When the witness and his mother went to the Police Department to complain, King was there to greet them. “He smirked, laughed and disrespected my mother,” the written statement read. “I explained the restaurant is not his kitchen, and unless someone is breaking the law, he has no right to arrest people for what he thinks should be done there.”
An unnamed “local member of the judiciary” later recommended to King that he release the patron, Dike told the Gazette.
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].