COMMERCE, Texas - Commerce Police Chief Kerry Crews unexpectedly resigned Monday following the controversial May arrest of a former Miss Black Texas.
The announcement came at a city council meeting in Commerce on Monday night, where the law firm that conducted an independent investigation into the arrest was presenting its findings.
Carmen Ponder, who was arrested on a charge of evading detention after an alleged road rage incident, claims her arrest was racially motivated. The charge was later dropped.
Crews was not present at the meeting. He sent a statement that was read by the mayor saying he intervened in the conflict at Walmart because Commerce ISD Board Trustee Michael Beane asked him to.
"It was my understanding that officers had been called, but I felt that it was something that I could handle. I was wrong," he wrote. "As a result of being off-duty I was unprepared for the response I received from Ms. Ponder, and I became emotional."
Crews said stress and the burden of the job since the controversial arrest and over the past several years caused him to resign.
"I do not feel that I can continue to bear the weight of the police chief position," he said.
But Crews is not out of a job. He will continue to work for the city in a newly-created position as an assistant to the city manager.
"This is an exciting time to be in Commerce," he wrote. "And I am excited to continue to be able to contribute to the city in this new role."
Crews' mother was in tears as she and a room full of his supporters learned he resigned his position as Commerce police chief.
Ponder originally wrongly accused the chief as the driver she got into a dispute with and allegedly made a racist remark. The chief's supporters showed up in force to city council Monday night, wearing shirts saying “I support Kerry Crews” and were ready to fight challenge any disciplinary action.
Tensions remained high after the meeting, but one Ponder's supporters prayed with a Crews supporter for healing. Ponder and attorney Lee Merritt are glad Crews is no longer chief, but would like Beane to step down as well.
The Commerce ISD school board has a special meeting Tuesday morning to discuss employment and resignation of board members. It’s unclear if that involves Mr. Beane.
Ponder and her attorney are still pursuing a civil lawsuit. They still believe the chief's actions were racially motivated, in part, and that the charge was unfounded even though an independent law firm exonerated Crews of any racially motivated actions. They're in talks with city leaders and have requested the case be heard by an audience.