by Jeffrey L. Boney
Special to the NNPA from the Houston Forward-Times
An African American mother encountered a situation that no parent should experience – having to receive a phone call from your child informing you they were in the hospital after being brutally beaten by law enforcement officials.
That is what 42-year old Sonja Lewis endured when she received a call from her son, a full day after he had a run in with members of law enforcement. Lewis is demanding justice after accusing the Houston Police Department (HPD) of using excessive force and inhumane tactics to manhandle her son back on April 16th in southwest Houston.
Joseph Roberts, 21, had asked a gentleman to drop him off at his girlfriend’s home earlier in the day and after spending time with her, he called the guy to come back and pick him up to take him back home. The guy he called to give him a ride was taking an extraordinary amount of time to come back and pick him up, so Roberts contemplated walking back home, but because he has asthma, he didn’t want to walk because he didn’t have his asthma pump with him.
After some time passed, the person that Roberts called for a ride showed up and he got in the car. As soon as Roberts got into the vehicle, Roberts stated that a police car got behind them. Because the gentleman’s car had specialized rims and tinted windows on it, Roberts believed that they were being followed because of that, so he did not become concerned. After a period of time of having the police follow the vehicle, Roberts noticed that the guy seemed nervous, so he struck up a conversation with him and asked what was wrong. The gentleman proceeded to tell him that he had warrants and said that he felt if they stopped him he would go back to jail. Roberts repeatedly asked to be let out of the car, but instead of stopping, the young man took off and tried to get away from the police. That is when things escalated.
As a passenger in the vehicle, Roberts could not escape, so he was captive until the driver ended up crashing the car in a small ditch in a residential neighborhood. The driver jumped out of the car and was tasered as soon as he tried to escape. Roberts, however, got out the car and closed the door and put his hands in the air. Roberts immediately found himself having to jump over the hood of the car he was riding in to avoid getting hit, after seeing another police car heading his way at full speed. After jumping over the hood, a police car came barreling in, according to Roberts, and slammed into the young man, causing some serious and life-threatening injuries.
It is what happened next that has Lewis upset and confused.
Roberts claims that HPD officers rolled the police car over his body, leaving him with major internal injuries, including a broken pelvis, along with lacerations and skin being ripped from his back from the tires. Roberts says that he was serious pain and informed HPD officers that he didn’t have any movement in his lower body and claims that officers pulled him out from under the police car and began to beat him, after hog-tying him.
Roberts says that a lady witness came out and saw what happened and the cop asked her if the cameras she had at her house were functional and she informed them that they weren’t, to which he said they replied, “Good!”
No ambulance was ever called to scene; instead, Roberts was thrown in the back of the police car and taken to Ben Taub Hospital. With no explanation that has been provided to date, police removed him from Ben Taub and dropped him off at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Medical Center, where he wasn’t admitted under his own name, but under a fake alias name – James Rogers. The Houston Forward Times (HFT) has seen the wrist band that was attached to Roberts’ wrist, where he had been admitted to Memorial Hermann under the fake alias name.
It was only when Roberts was able to call his mother from the hospital, that he was able to tell her what happened to him. When Roberts told his mother all that had happened, Lewis was upset, but when she made her way to the hospital, her anger turned into sadness, because of the severity of her son’s injuries.
“They didn’t have to treat my son like this,” said Lewis. “I have so many questions and no one is providing answers and as a mother, I’m just trying to get justice for my son. This was wrong.”
When asked why he was booked under an alias name, Lewis says that a Memorial Hermann representative told her that when a person comes in under police custody as a gunshot victim, they will be admitted under an alias and then handcuffed to the bed, where a guard would be placed there to watch them. Roberts was not a gunshot victim, nor were any of those protocols following concerning him.
Lewis has gone to the HPD Internal Affairs Department seeking answers and Memorial Hermann, and says she has been getting nothing but the run-around. Lewis tried to file an Internal Affairs complaint with HPD, but was told she could not, but rather her son had to file the complaint because he is 21-years old.
The HFT reached out to HPD Internal Affairs department and was told that all they show in their system is that Roberts has been charged with those two crimes, but nothing more.
After questions continued to arise, Memorial Hermann abruptly discharged him out of the hospital, even when Roberts continued to complain of pain in his body and while still having staples in his stomach. He was discharged from Memorial Hermann on Wednesday, April 23rd and his mother was told by the hospital that she needed to give him shots in his stomach once a day, but didn’t fully explain why. She was given the name of a doctor, but doesn’t know what’s supposed to happen next or if her son is properly healing.
In addition to that, Lewis had to find a bonding company, because she kept receiving letters in the mail saying that her son had warrants out for his arrest for not appearing in court. Of course, there was no way that Roberts could have appeared in court, because the whole time he was sitting in a Memorial Hermann hospital, where he was admitted under a fake alias name.
When Lewis reached out to a bonding company, they searched the records and found that Roberts had been booked in the City of Houston jail; under his real name. Records show that HPD charged Roberts with burglary of a motor vehicle and evading arrest, but have not indicated what vehicle was allegedly stolen or how he evaded arrest. Since the incident, Roberts has never been taken to jail and has never spent a minute in jail concerning this case.
So, in essence, Roberts was forcibly discharged from Memorial Hermann as a free man, although the system shows him as a fugitive on the run.
Lewis says her son can’t get a bond because the city jail is saying that he is booked in the county jail and the county jail is saying that he is booked in the city jail. She says the experience is frustrating and she wants justice.
“When I went to HPD Internal Affairs to inquire about my son’s case, the Lieutenant was very nasty with us and had the nerve to ask me what hospital my son was in,” said Lewis. “I said, you mean to tell me you don’t know and all you did was just drop my son off at any hospital in Houston without having any documentation of where he is? I started crying and had to leave.”
Lewis has hired an attorney on behalf of her son and while seeking justice for Roberts, they are really hoping for some much needed answers, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else in Houston.
The HFT will stay on top of this story and make sure our readers know the latest.