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Harker Heights Police are reviewing a complaint stemming from accusations of wrongful arrest and police brutality that a woman named "Leah" made against one of their officers after an alleged incident following a New Year's Eve party, according to authorities.
Word of the police review came just hours after social justice activist and attorney Lee Merritt made a Facebook post that accused a Harker Heights police officer of assaulting and wrongfully arresting his client: Leah. Social media users had shared the post more than 11,400 times, as of Tuesday morning.
In the post, Merritt claimed Leah rode with her boyfriend to a Central Texas emergency room after a New Year's Eve party so that someone could look at his eye, which was allegedly injured at the party. Merritt said Leah, who had been drinking, sat in the passenger seat of her boyfriend's car and fell asleep while her boyfriend went inside the ER.
She woke up to the police officer "dragging her from the car" and "banging her face into the concrete while accusing her of DUI," according to Merritt, who claimed she was "further physically assaulted" while trying to explain she was not driving and tell the officer that the car was not hers.
"She doesn't know how to drive," Merritt wrote.
Merritt demanded the officer be fired and charged.
"Leah was not charged with DUI. She was instead mis-charged with public intoxication in a bizarre attempt to justify her unlawful arrest," Merritt said.
For its part, the Harker Heights Police Department posted its own Facebook message warning the public from jumping to conclusions.
"The Harker Heights Police Department is aware of the incident that has been referenced by some in social media," the Harker Heights Police Department wrote on Facebook. "It was reported to the Department by the complainant and it is currently under review, which takes some time to complete. Remember that not all information posted in social media is accurate and caution is encouraged for that reason."
Merritt's original Facebook post mistakenly cited the Killeen Police Department instead of the Harker Heights Police Department. He later edited the post.
In response, the Killeen Police Department released its own statement -- similar to that of the Harker Heights Police Department.
"The Killeen Police Department and Harker Heights Police Department are aware of the allegation surrounding the arrest of a woman named Leah referenced in social media posts," KPD wrote. "The situation is currently being investigated. The facts surrounding the arrest are under review."
Channel 6 obtained an arrest affidavit Tuesday from the incident.
According to the affidavit, officers were dispatched at 5:12 a.m. on Jan. 1 to 850 W. Central Texas Expressway (Seton Medical Center) for a disturbance in progress. When officers arrived, they said they found Leah's car parked and running in the ambulance bay at the Seton Medical Center. Officers found Leah in the backseat of the car and noticed an alcoholic odor "on or about her person," according to the affidavit.
In the affidavit, the officer said he asked Leah to get out of the vehicle, and when she refused, he entered the vehicle to remove her. Leah subsequently jumped to the passenger side, where another officer removed her from the vehicle, according to the affidavit.
The officer stated that during a conversation with Leah outside the vehicle, he continued to smell a strong alcoholic odor from her breath and arrested her for public intoxication. Police put Leah in double lock hand restraints and transported her to the Harker Heights Police Department for booking, the officer added.
During the booking process, Leah was uncooperative with officers during their search and attempted to grab the officer's body cam while taking her booking photo, according to the affidavit. Police said in the affidavit they put Leah in a holding cell until she decided to comply with the booking process.
Once Leah complied, the officer said in the affidavit that her mood changed from stating that she hated him to stating that she loved him. She was then booked without further incident, according to the affidavit.
To view the affidavit, click here:
Harker Heights Police have scheduled a press conference about the incident for Tuesday afternoon.
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