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Hit-and-run gives way to frightening run-in with police

Hickory Hill resident Dale Robinson and his family have filed a complaint with the Memphis Police Department Internal Affairs division.

by Tony Jones
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Hickory Hill resident Dale Robinson and his family have filed a complaint with the Memphis Police Department Internal Affairs division alleging that a patrolman choked Robinson after the officer was dispatched to the Robinsons’ home to file an official hit-and-run report on behalf of their daughter, Alisha, 18.

 Dale Robinson
 Alisha Robinson
What the Robinson family alleges in their affidavit are two frightening encounters – one by the motorist who hit the car Alisha Robinson was driving, and the second a deeply disturbing run-in with officers sworn to protect and serve to the best of their abilities.

The Robinsons’ affidavit names “officer Barrett, badge #357” and “officer Miller, badge #367.” MPD’s media office has confirmed that the complaint has been filed and is under investigation. The department maintains a no comment policy on such matters until investigations are fully complete. (The TSD had not obtained the first names of the officers nor their personnel records by the newspaper’s deadline.)

The March 24 incident began when the car driven by Alisha Robinson was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the parking lot of the Chick-Fil-A Restaurant at 7072 Winchester. She was able to get the make, model and license plate number but did not immediately call the police, instead choosing to inform her father after he returned home from fishing. In the complaint, Dale Robinson, who operates a computer sales and service business, states that his daughter’s decision not to report the incident was understandable because of her relative inexperience as a driver.

After he was told about what happened, the affidavit states, Dale Robinson called the police non-emergency number and officer Barrett was sent to their home. Claiming he was unnecessarily rude from the beginning, the family asserts that Barrett tried to flip the responsibility on Alisha Robinson, allegedly asking her in a suspicious tone,  “What did you back into?” And “Why didn’t you report it earlier?”

The scene then shifted to the outside, where officer Barrett allegedly continued his “nasty tone,” telling the Robinsons that he refused to take the report because it should have been called in when it first happened.

Dale Robinson claims he repeated to the officer that he needed the report for insurance purposes. Barrett, said Robinson, then loudly told him to go in the house or he would be taken to jail. Robinson, who maintains that he was willing to comply, said he responded, “Take me to jail for what?”

At that point, Barrett called for backup, claiming, according to the complaint, that Robinson was resisting arrest.

“Take me to jail for what,” Robinson said he asked repeatedly. “I made no effort to resist and simply was asking WHY?”

Matthew Terry, the neighborhood yardman, was cutting grass next door. The Robinsons are among his customers, said Terry in an interview with The New Tri-State Defender. He described them as a “wonderful” family of four (two daughters), noting that Dale Robinson was an upstanding father known to be out fishing or playing softball on a regular basis.

“I was cutting the neighbor’s yard next door. A police car came up and the policeman went into the house. I asked Dale what was going on and he told me about the hit and run. They all went into the house and after a little while all came out and looked at the car,” said Terry. “I was on the up path, so I didn’t hear what was being said, but by the time I got to where I was facing them it looked like they were in a heated argument.

“Dale started to go inside when the policeman grabbed him and started manhandling him.  He threw him against the car and then threw him to the pavement. The guy had a choke hold on him, but one of Dale’s arms was free. He was holding it out, surrendering, but he couldn’t say anything because of the chokehold. His face was in the pavement,” said Terry.

“The policeman told him to put his hands behind his back, but every time Dale tried to do so the policemen said, ‘What you reaching for? What you reaching for?’ He did this three times.”

Terry said it was obvious that Robinson was afraid of what was going to happen to him, and that it seemed like the policeman was afraid too. “Dale’s wife and children were screaming, they thought he (the officer) was killing him. We were all telling him to just lie still.”

Soon after Barrett handcuffed Robinson, a second car, driven by officer Miller, pulled up.

“He pulled his baton out like he was going to automatically hit somebody,” said Terry. “He saw that Dale was handcuffed, but his wife screaming caught his (Miller’s) attention and he went after her, but she ran up into the garage and he left her alone. One of the neighbors knew him and he told Miller point blank, ‘Miller you wrong!’ We tried to get someone that could hear us with a camera on a phone, but we couldn’t.  None of us had one with us.”

A second witness to the incident was the Robinsons’ neighbor of eight years, Kenya Robinson (no relation). Dale Robinson was already handcuffed when he got to the scene.

“The first officer radioed that he had everything under control, and then maybe two minutes Miller later showed up. He got out of the car holding his baton like he was about to hit Mr. Robinson in the head, but the other officer told him, ‘Hold up, I already have him down,’” said Kenya Robinson.

“Mrs. Robinson was steady asking questions, and he kept telling her to get back. She responded that she was in her yard and he cursed her real hard and raised the stick like he was about to hit her. I led her in the house and he said something to me and I said ‘alright man,’ and we went into the house.

“Some more officers pulled up, and then Miller broke Mr. Robinson’s eyeglasses with his stick. They were laying right by the mailbox in a hat. The other officers advised Mrs. Robinson that she could talk to a lieutenant or could file charges, if they felt something had been done wrong.”


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