Texas City police officer terminated over viral Buc-ee’s traffic stop

Texas City police officer terminated over viral Buc-ee’s traffic stop (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

TEXAS CITY, Texas – A Texas City police officer at the center of a controversial and viral Buc-ee’s traffic stop in April has been terminated following an investigation, according to the Texas City Police Department.

Texas City Police Chief Landis Cravens said the decision was made after a thorough review of the circumstances on April 19.

Chief of Police Landis Cravens released the following statement regarding Harrell’s termination:

On September 1, 2023, in my first official act as Chief of Police, I have taken the action to indefinitely suspend (terminate) the employment of Scott Harrell, the officer involved in this incident. This decision was made after a thorough review of the circumstances and is in line with our commitment to maintaining the highest standards of professionalism, ethics, and community service.

We want to be clear that the actions of this individual do not represent the hard work and dedication of the men and women who proudly wear the uniform of the Texas City Police Department. We are committed to upholding the trust and confidence you have placed in us, and we take our responsibility to serve and protect this community seriously.

The Texas City Police Department is a civil service police agency. That means in every personnel decision involving a non-probationary police officer, we must comply with regulations established within the Texas Local Government Code 143, City of Texas City Civil Service Commission Rules and Regulations, Collective Bargaining Agreement, the TCPD Policy Manual, and the City of Texas City Personnel Policies. On September 2, 2023, we received notice from the Texas Municipal Police Association on behalf of Officer Scott Harrell that my decision was being appealed. With that being stated, we are committed to rigorously defending this decision to ensure that our department maintains the integrity and transparency you expect and deserve.

Thank you for your continued support as we work diligently to uphold the values and principles that guide our department’s mission.

What happened

The 23-minute traffic stop, captured on Officer Scott Harrell’s body camera, happened at the Texas City Buc-ee’s when Christopher Shull stopped to fill up with gas.

Surveillance video shows Shull driving his black sedan into the Buc-ee’s parking lot, passing in front of a police cruiser, cutting through empty parking spaces, and pulling into the gas pumps.

“Hey man, you can’t drive through the parking lot like that,” Harrell could be heard saying to Shull on body camera video after activating his emergency lights.

The four-year veteran of the Texas City Police Department claimed to be parked and working on a report in the lot when it happened. He wrote Shull a ticket for disregarding a traffic control device in the private parking lot.

“I feel like you’re going to continue to commit these behaviors that are unsafe and put people at risk,” Harrell could be heard saying.

Harrell also said Shull drove “so fast.”

In the offense report obtained by KPRC 2 News, Harrell described Shull as “argumentative and confrontational,” writing that he “continued to argue the facts of the case.”

“Instead of being like, ‘Oh yeah, I messed up, it won’t happen again,’ you want to sit here and go back and forth,” Harrell said in the body camera video.

Video then captures Harrell putting Shull in handcuffs and in the back of his police cruiser.

According to Harrell’s narrative report, he detained Shull because he “would not cooperate.”

“He wanted me to admit whatever he said was right and I wasn’t going to do it because it didn’t happen,” Shull said in an interview only with KPRC 2.

Harrell told Shull, as well as another police officer during the traffic stop, that the way Shull was driving through the parking lot caused him to nearly hit a white truck.

“You were very close! They had to slam on their brakes, I watched it happen. OK, you came flying through the parking lot,” Harrell said to Shull, while Shull sat handcuffed in the back of his police cruiser.

But in another surveillance video obtained by KPRC 2, the white truck appears to brake while exiting the gas pumps, then the brake lights appear to go off before completing a left turn and finally crossing paths with Shull.

“Everything he said was a lie and it really just boils down to, he wanted to use his police powers to bash me over the head,” Shull said.

During the exchange captured on body camera video, Harrell said to Shull: “You have forced my hand at this point because if I don’t go and see this through to its conclusion, I know you’re going to go to the police department and file a complaint on me.”

Harrell continued, “The complaint’s not going to do anything because I have it all on video. Everything is recorded. I don’t talk to anyone in the public unless I have my camera on.”

Harrell wrote in the narrative report that he planned to “take him into custody for the offense” but another Texas City officer arrived during the 23-minute traffic stop and provided a citation book to write a ticket instead, which is when Harrell was released from the back of the car and un-handcuffed.

Video of traffic stop goes viral

Shull posted the body camera video on YouTube May 15, which now has more than 35,000 views. Several prominent YouTubers have analyzed and re-shared the video with tens of thousands of views on additional clips.

Shull, who said he is pro-police, called the stop unjustified and a violation of his rights.

More than a month after the incident but nine days after Shull made it public, and amid growing pressure on the department’s Facebook page, now retired Texas City Police Chief Joe Stanton later announced that Harrell was placed on inside administrative duty and was the subject of an internal affairs investigation.

Shull received notice from the Texas City Municipal Court that his ticket had been dismissed. The box for “affidavit of non-prosecution” was checked.

According to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, “At this time, there is not a case or any disciplinary action being taken against Harrell’s peace officer license.”

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About the Authors:

Award-winning journalist, mother, YouTuber, social media guru, millennial, mentor, storyteller, University of Houston alumna and Houston-native.

Bryce Newberry joined KPRC 2 in July 2022. He loves the thrill of breaking news and digging deep on a story that gets people talking.