Wal-Mart Scuffle Leads to Arrest for Missouri Woman
Posted: Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 at 2:38 pm
Kennett, Missouri – A heated, racially charged argument at a Missouri Wal-Mart in January 2007 turned into a legal nightmare for Heather Ellis, now 24, who pled guilty to resisting arrest and disturbing the peace – both misdemeanors – at a court date earlier this week.
Witnesses say that Ellis, then a college student, cut in front of other customers in line and shoved aside another customer’s merchandise to make room for her own. Prosecutors allege that Ellis “went ballistic in a profane tirade” when police were called to mediate, and that she kicked an officer’s shin and split open another officer’s lip. Ellis has denied all of these allegations, but said in court that she did touch another customer’s items.
Ellis’s story of the events is much different than what witnesses recount, and claims she was the victim in the situation. In her testimony of Nov. 20th, Ellis said the situation started when she switched checkout lines to be with a family member, but was then ignored by the cashier and was refused change. She also testified that customers yelled racial slurs at her when she attempted to change lines. When exiting the store, Ellis claims a police officer approached her and make racially charged comments, then grabbed her in an attempt to handcuff her, but made no statement telling her what he was doing. She claims she was then “flung around” and choked, while making attempts to scream for help.
Family members who were with Ellis at the time of the incident back up her story, but surveillance videos in and around the story were unable to catch all points of the incident. Ellis sought medical attention at the emergency room following her arrest, where she said her wrists were cut and bruised due to the handcuffs, and that she was also suffering from neck pains.
Following her court appearance, Ellis told reporters that she was “taking responsibility for her actions and [hopes] that everyone else involved in the case will take responsibility for theirs.” The charges in which she is accused of carry fines and long prison sentences. However, as part of a plea agreement, Ellis will only serve four days in jail, with one year of unsupervised probation, and will attend an anger management course. If she stays out of trouble for one year, her record will be sealed and no charges will appear on her permanent record.
The incident has raised concerns about the treatment of minorities by the police in the surrounding area. Residents have long been complaining about treatment during routine traffic stops and other encounters with the police. However, Ellis’s lawyers have not brought up race as a contributing factor in the incident.