A viral social media post by New York-based media personality Shaun King sparked an internal investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety in Ellis County on Sunday.
The post claimed a DPS trooper sexually assaulted a female who was arrested at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday for allegedly driving while intoxicated. It also stated the officer told the female he would shoot her fiancé and claim he was armed.
However, the Texas DPS refutes the allegations.
“Upon learning of the allegations today, the department immediately took action to review the dash cam video,” stated Lonny Haschel, Texas DPS staff lieutenant, to the Daily Light via email. “The video shows absolutely no evidence to support the serious accusations against the trooper during the DWI arrest of the suspect.”
Haschel added the department presented the video to the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office, which "reviewed video of the traffic stop and arrest." The video was released by DPS late Tuesday night.
According to the post by King, the family of Sherita Dixon Cole spoke with civil rights attorney Lee Merritt early Sunday morning. Merritt then shared the story with King.
King wrote the family claimed Cole was stopped along US Highway 287 South and Interstate-35E near a car dealership. The family stated Cole “voluntarily performed and passed” DWI tests but was taken into custody because the arresting trooper “didn’t like [her] attitude.”
The article then paints a vivid picture, stating Cole was assaulted before and after her fiancé arrived on scene.
The accusations remain unfounded at this time.
Cole was then booked into the Wayne McCollum Detention Center in Waxahachie.
An Ellis County Sheriff’s Office official confirmed Cole to be in custody as of 5 p.m. Sunday. She was released after posting bail Sunday night.
According to a press release issued Monday by S. Lee Merritt Sr. and Daryl K. Washington, Cole is represented by Merritt in pursuit of a trial to address "certain civil rights violations."
The release states Merritt is a licensed attorney at law in the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
However, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article published Jan. 30 states the Philadelphia-based civil rights attorney "with Fort Worth ties has been accused of practicing law without a Texas license." The allegations arose after Merritt represented the family of Jacqueline Craig, who was a Black teen killed by a Balch Springs Police officer in 2016.
The report notes the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, which is a panel established by the Texas Supreme Court, has filed for a restraining order in Tarrant County to prohibit Merritt from practicing law in Texas.
This article was updated throughout to include information on Cole's release and legal representation, as well as the YouTube video produced by DPS.