The attorney representing Leah Dure in the viral police brutality claim against the Harker Heights Police Department announced Wednesday that he would no longer pursue the matter on Dure's behalf.
The announcement came less than a day after the Harker Heights Police Department strongly denied the accusations of police brutality made by Dure, who accused one of the department's officers of assaulting and wrongfully arresting her in the early morning on Jan. 1 after a New Year's Eve party. The department provided video and audio evidence to support investigators' belief that Dure was instead injured during an earlier fight involving her boyfriend, her boyfriend's wife and several other people.
"While our office finds it implausible that an equipment failure occurred at the most critical aspect of Ms. Dure's arrest, the absence of circumstantial evidence that a violent attack occurred during this missing period of recording, coupled with significant evidence that Ms. Dure suffered serious injury to her face prior to her arrest, makes further pursuit of a Civil Rights claim untenable," Dure's lawyer Lee Merritt wrote.
Merritt mentioned "equipment failure" because the Harker Heights Police Department claimed the body camera belonging to Officer Joshua Wood -- the person Merritt publicly accused of assaulting his client -- had malfunctioned during Dure's arrest. Dash camera video and interior police cruiser video, however, do exist and that footage has been released.
Merritt's press release gets two basic facts wrong.
In addition to mixing up the date by saying the findings of this case were presented in December not January, Merritt confuses the body camera footage of two different police officers.
"HHPD claims Officer Wood's bodycam failed at that very moment but later came back online to capture [Leah's] injuries while she was seated in the back of a police vehicle," Merritt incorrectly claimed.
While Harker Heights Police did acknowledge that Officer Wood's body camera malfunctioned, it did not come back on as Merritt alleged. As Harker Heights Police said in their press conference Tuesday, that body camera footage from while Dure was seated in the back of the police vehicle actually came from Officer Greenwood -- not Officer Wood. They have similar names. But, they are different people.
Merritt has deleted his original Facebook post accusing Officer Wood of assault, but not before the post was shared more than 11,400 times. In fact, the post initially accused the wrong police department -- the Killeen Police Department -- before Merritt changed the post.
One thing Merritt did not do publicly was apologize -- something many Facebook commenters from the Central Texas area had requested.
Merritt used Facebook live on Tuesday night to field questions and offer his perspective on the whole situation. The video is no longer available and appears to have been deleted.
"As Officer Wood's attorney, on behalf of the Texas Municipal Police Association, I am respectfully requesting that you issue a full retraction of your false assertions on Facebook immediately or face a lawsuit for defamation per se," Georgetown-based Attorney Robert McCabe wrote on Facebook Tuesday in response to Merritt's original claims.
In a phone call with KCEN-TV Tuesday evening, McCabe said claims like the ones Merritt made about Officer Wood "waters down those cases" where people really do need justice if they are actually abused by law enforcement.
"People like Lee Merritt...he's just a race baiter. That's what he is," McCabe said.
For his part, Merritt said the facts laid out by his initial post are not supported by the evidence that has been made available.
"There is no factual basis to believe that Officer Joshua Wood committed an assault against Leah Dure," Merritt said in an updated statement.