ATexas State Trooper was accused of sexually assaulting Sherita Dixon Cole before her arrest after a traffic stop, but the Texas Department of Public Safety said that dash cam video doesn’t support the accusation. After reviewing the footage, Cole’s attorney retracted her claims. Local media site Waxahachie Daily Light was one of the first to report on the story, after it went viral when it was shared online by activist and writer Shaun King. After her release, Cole went to the hospital for evaluation and officials never publicly identified the officer. Cole’s attorney canceled a press conference for Monday, saying he needed to review a dash cam video first. Although the District Attorney’s office has given permission for the video to be released, the video was not made public.
Here is what you need to know.
1. Cole’s Story Went Viral After Shaun King Tweeted that Her Family Said She Was Sexually Assaulted, But Her Lawyer Later Retracted All Her Claims
Sherita Dixon Cole did not speak publicly about her experience, but her story quickly went viral even before she was released from jail. Attorney S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights lawyer and Cole’s attorney and friend, first shared the story with Shaun King after speaking with Cole’s family. King, an activist and writer for The Intercept, then shared her story on Twitter and Facebook, wrongly referring to the officer as a “rapist,” where it quickly went viral.
According to King — in posts also shared by Merritt — Cole was pulled over by a Texas State Trooper around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 20 in Waxahachie, Texas. The story, which a dash cam video later showed was not true, claimed that she was pulled over for a suspected DUI/DWI, and a State Trooper offered to let her go home if he could have sex with her. She said that she was sexually assaulted when she said no. The post said her fiance tried to follow the trooper’s car, saw they were parked for a while at a dealership, and then lost them along the way. The family said the fiance he was threatened beforehand, The Waxahachie Daily Light reported.
Attorney Lee Merritt had planned a press conference for 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon, but he canceled it, saying that he needed to review the dash cam video once it was released first, NBC DFW reported. (Note, the original Facebook post by NBC DFW, which this story linked to, was later removed because it contained Cole’s name. NBC DFW’s current story is here. However, her attorney Merritt has publicly released her name.)
Merritt later retracted all his client’s claims after watching the dash cam video. He said in a statement:
“The body camera footage released directly conflicts with the accounts reported to my office. There is no readily apparent evidence of tampering with the footage. Officer Daniel Hubbard seems to comport himself professionally during the duration of the traffic stop and arrest and— without more— should be cleared of any wrongdoing.”
“It is deeply troubling when innocent parties are falsely accused and I am truly sorry for any trouble these claims may have caused (the officer) and his family. I take full responsibility for amplifying these claims to the point of national concern. This office regularly receives hundreds of complaints of abuse from across the nation and we are obligated to filter these messages thoroughly before relaying them to our powerful allies. Our office necessarily takes claims of abuse— particularly by law enforcement officers— very seriously. It is our responsibility to call for swift, transparent and thorough investigation into any such accusation.”
“Our calls for professionalism and adherence to protocol, however, should not be misconstrued as a rush to judgment. To the contrary, our goal in presenting claims of misconduct is to arrive as quickly and as accurately as possible to the truth. We are thankful to the members of the community willing to echo our demands for transparency and justice. However, in this matter it seems your righteous vigilance was abused.”
2. Texas DPS Officials Said from the Beginning that the Dash Cam Video Didn’t Support the Accusations
The Texas Department of Public Safety quickly released an official statement about the accusations on Sunday night, saying that dash cam video did not show any evidence to support Cole’s claims.
They wrote: “DPS responds to allegations by DWI suspect in Ellis County. Upon learning of the allegations today, the department immediately took action to review the dash cam video. The video shows absolutely no evidence to support the serious accusations against the Trooper during the DWI arrest of the suspect. DPS will present the video to the Ellis County DA’s Office to determine if any further action is needed.”
Texas DPS has not released the name of the accused officer.
Note: Some online sources incorrectly stated that the officer was Trooper Jarrod Hubbard, but he was not the officer in Cole’s allegations, and the officer in Cole’s allegations was also cleared. NBC DFW reported that Jarrod was receiving death threats online, and the DPS was going to look into tracking down the people who made those threats.
3.The District Attorney Gave Texas DPS Permission To Release the Video, Which Cleared the Officer
Texas DPS said in their statement Sunday night that they planned to release the full dash cam video to the public unless the District Attorney’s office objects. Later, Maria Guerrero of NBC DFW confirmed that the District Attorney had given their OK Sunday night to release the dash cam video. The video cleared the officer, Cole’s attorney stated.
Lonny Haschel, Texas DPS staff lieutenant, reiterated the findings to the Waxahachie Daily Light. “Upon learning of the allegations today, the department immediately took action to review the dash cam video. The video shows absolutely no evidence to support the serious accusations against the trooper during the DWI arrest of the suspect.”
Some people questioned how a dash cam would help since most of the accusations were about actions inside the vehicle. However, some law enforcement dash cams also show what is happening inside the vehicle. Texas DPS told NBC DFW that this particular dash cam video shows the inside and the outside of the car. As of Tuesday morning, it still has not been released.
“The video will show inside and outside the patrol vehicle. Not all troopers across the State are equipped with the body camera just yet, however, in this instance, the trooper did have the body camera,” a spokesman told NBC.
You can watch part of the video above.
4. Cole Went to the Hospital on Sunday Evening, But She Never Made a Public Statement
Maria Guerrero of NBC DFW reported that they were able to confirm that Cole was arrested for an alleged DWI/DUI in Waxahachie, but the other very serious allegations were still being investigated. Her family said that Cole had taken and passed a breathalyzer test but was taken into custody anyway because of “her attitude,” the Waxahachie Daily Light reported. However, it’s not clear if any of that actually occurred.
Her attorney told NBC DFW said that they posted her bond, but she was not immediately released. About an hour after that post, Guerrero updated the story to share that Cole had been released and was speaking to her attorney and her family.
According to King’s posts, Cole was pulled over around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday and later booked into the Wayne McCollum Detention Center in Waxahachie. The Waxahachie Daily Light confirmed that she was still in custody by 5 p.m. Sunday and was released a little later that evening. Her family and attorney said she was held for an undetermined period of time after they posted bail, which was one reason why Merritt had reached out to King with the story. Merritt tweeted at the time:
Cole has since been released and was being evaluated at a local hospital, NBC DFW reported. Cole never made any public statements, and a two hour dash cam video exonerated the officer, WFAA reported.
5. Cole Is an HR Professional with a Master’s Degree in International Human Resources
According to Cole’s Linked In profile, she works for HR Management Solutions and is also employed with Teleperformance. She previously worked as a senior HR specialist for Levi Strauss & Co. Cole has a bachelor of science in human resources management from the University of Texas at Austin. She also has a master’s degree in International Human Resources from Capella University.
Shaun King wrote on Twitter about Cole: “I’m not trying to play respectability politics here, but Sherita is a widely respected fully employed human resources professional. She has a BA from @UTAustin and her MA in Human Resources. She has a son in college. I refuse to accept any attacks on her character right now.” His tweet was shared nearly 300 times.
The dash cam video later exonerated the officer, and Cole’s attorney apologized.
This is a developing story.