Scott Henson (pictured), a self-described White Texas redneck, was cuffed last Friday by a swarm of policemen, because he was walking his Black 5-year-old grandchild down the street. The Austin resident spoke to NewsOne about how he was accosted by police for being in the company of his grandchild, Ty (pictured).
Ty’s mother is not Henson and his wife’s biological child; the couple decided to raise her after her own father died. Still, the woman calls Henson and his wife “Mom” and “Dad,” and naturally, her daughter refers to the couple as her grandparents.
Henson’s grandchild typically spends Friday nights with her grandfather and his wife, so that the little girl’s parents can get a break. Last Friday, Henson, who is a journalist and creator of two popular blogs GritsforBreakfast and Huevos Rancheros, took his grandchild to a skating rink near his home as a reward for being a high achiever at school. The kindergartener grew tired of skating, so the pair decided to walk home rather than have his wife pick them up from the rink.
After walking a distance from the rink, Henson felt as if he was being followed. Suddenly, someone called out to them, and it turned out to be a deputy constable.
“She told me to take my hand out of my pocket and to step away from Ty, declaring that someone had seen a White man chasing a Black girl and reported a possible kidnapping. Then she began asking the 5-year-old about me. The last time this happened, Ty was barely 2, and I wasn’t about to let police question her. This time, though, at least initially, I decided to let her answer. “Do you know this man?” the deputy asked. “Yes, he’s my Grandpa,” Ty said. “What did you say?” the deputy repeated. “He’s my Grandpa!” Ty yelled, then rushed back over to me and grabbed hold of my leg. “Okay,” the deputy responded.
The constable asked for Henson’s name and address, and he chose not to answer stating that if he was not being held for anything, he would like to take the child home. The woman complied and allowed Henson to leave.
Just as Henson and Ty were approaching their home, a police cruiser that had passed them by after the constable released them suddenly turned around and threw on his flashing lights. Four more police cars joined, surrounding Henson and Ty. Officers jumped out of their vehicles with tasers drawn, demanding that Henson throw up his hands and step away from the child. The officers grabbed the child and put her in the backseat of a vehicle. By now there were a total of nine to ten police cars surrounding Henson and his granddaughter.
“ I gave them the phone numbers they needed to confirm who Ty was and that she was supposed to be with me (and not in the back of their police car), but for quite a while nobody seemed too interested in verifying my story. One officer wanted to lecture me endlessly about how they were just doing their job, as if the innocent person handcuffed on the side of the road cares about such excuses. I asked why he hadn’t made any calls yet, and he interrupted his lecture to say, ‘We’ve only been here two minutes, give us time” (It had actually been much longer than that). Maybe so, I replied, sitting on the concrete in handcuffs, but there are nine of y’all milling about doing nothing by my count so you’ve had 18 minutes for somebody to get on the damn phone by now so y’all can figure out you screwed up.”
According to Henson, the same deputy constable who had questioned him earlier walked in on the scene and briefly looked his way as she spoke to police personnel. Soon after, a supervisor arrived and began questioning the officers. The woman came over to Henson and began explaining how the police department has to take complaints about possible kidnappings seriously. By this point, though, Henson felt he was guilty in the eyes of law enforcement for the “heinous crime of babysitting while white.”
After Henson was released, there were no apologies issued. After being interrogated, Ty was given a flashlight as a consolation prize. According to Henson, the deputy constable who could now barely look him in the eyes, “You knew better. This is on you.”
Meanwhile Ty, who was visibly shaken after witnessing how authorities treated her granddad, is left with a negative perception of law enforcement. “I hate for a 5-year-old to be subjected to such an experience. I’d like her to view police as people she can trust instead of threats to her and her family, but it’s possible I live in the wrong neighborhood for that.”
Attempts were made by News One to obtain a quote from the Austin police department regarding the Henson case but our calls were not returned.