Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams questions police stop in Tyler, Texas

Published on Wednesday, 18 January 2017 20:13 - Written by ROY MAYNARD, rmaynard@tylerpaper.com

Tyler Mayor Martin Heines and Ricky Williams - the Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL star who was detained briefly by Tyler police last week - have spoken by phone, Heines reported.

“We both reached out to the other, and it was a very positive conversation,” Heines said.

Williams spoke on an Austin radio program about his Jan. 11 encounter with Tyler police. He said he was profiled and detained when taking a walk near his hotel room. Williams was in Tyler for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award banquet last week.

“We visited about the incident, and we came to the positive conclusion that he’s very welcome in Tyler, Texas,” Heines said. “And I hope I can spend some time with him when he does return. I even invited him to stay with my family when he’s here; we have a guest room he’s welcome to.”

Williams, on the Dudley and Bob with Matt Show on Austin’s KLBJ 93.7 on Wednesday, said Christian Campbell picked him up in Dallas and the two drove to Tyler on Wednesday for the banquet at Willow Brook Country Club. They arrived several hours before the event, so he decided to go on a walk near his hotel. When he arrived back in the hotel parking lot, there were officers there to question him, he said.

He said four white police officers were involved in the encounter. 

“It was the middle of the day in the parking lot in the hotel,” Williams said. “They had me put my hands behind my back. They didn’t cuff me. They had me take everything out of my pockets and they started questioning me. I started to get upset. They told me to calm down. I said you don’t know what it’s like to be a black man, and it’s not the first time (police have stopped me for no reason).”

His account matches police dash cam and body cam video footage that was released Wednesday. Tyler officials said police - two veteran officers who were working with two trainees - questioned Williams only after they received a call from a nearby resident who reported a man acting suspiciously.

According to police, a resident on the 8200 block of Yale Drive in Tyler called about a suspicious person. He saw a black male crouched behind a fence in a green belt area near the Courtyard Marriot. When the homeowner spoke to the man, he walked away and climbed over a fence that led to the Colonial Hills Baptist Church parking lot. That’s when the homeowner called police.

While checking the area, police spoke to a construction worker in the area who said they spotted a person matching that description. The worker added that the person had picked up a tape measure and seemed as though he was going to walk off with it. The construction worker said he pointed this out to the man, and it was returned.

“They were stopping a person that was in an area that is not generally open to the public for normal use (who was) acting in a suspicious manner,” Don Martin, public information officer for the Tyler Police Department said. “If (an officer) has reasonable cause to contact you and you’re acting in some type of manner that is suspicious … (they’re) going to make sure that you don’t have any weapons on you before getting you identified.”

Martin said officers performed a legal search on Williams. He added that he believes the officers’ body and dash cam videos reflect that they did their jobs correctly.

“We feel that our officers did a professional job and did the proper job,” Martin said. “Bottom line, if this person had not gone back into an area and acted in a suspicious manner the way he did then this never would have happened.” 

Following the radio interview, Tyler officials released body cam and dash cam footage of the incident. 

Williams said on the radio program that despite the incident, he had a good time during his stay in Tyler. 

"After that experience, it wasn’t bad," Williams said. "Going to the awards banquet was kind of fun."

Augusta Robinson contributed to this report