Traffic stop involving New England Patriots football player wasn't about race, sheriff says

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

New England Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts is seen with his hands raised during a traffic stop at his Richmond, Texas, home March 10, 2019, in this image taken from a video released by the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office.

RICHMOND, Texas - A traffic stop involving a New England Patriots football player that resulted in allegations of harassment by the player may have been unprofessional but it wasn’t about race, according to Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls.

Nehls said the deputy stopped Elandon Roberts on March 10 in the Pecan Grove neighborhood after Roberts was caught driving 59 mph in a 35-mph zone. Roberts was issued citations for speeding and failure to provide proof of insurance, Nehls said.

A portion of the dashcam video recorded during the stop was posted by a USA Today reporter. Nehls said the reporter’s 90-second video of a 16-minute traffic stop was an attempt to make the stop about Roberts’ race.

“His video is inaccurate,” Nehls said Friday during a news conference.

Nehls released the entire video, which is 16 minutes and 42 seconds long, showing the interaction between the deputy and Roberts.

The video

A little more than a minute into the video, Roberts can be seen pulling into the driveway of his home and getting out of the vehicle with his hands up. The deputy then orders Roberts to get back in the vehicle.

“This is my house,” Roberts replies.

After more stern commands from the deputy, Roberts gets back in the vehicle, rolls down the window and waits for the deputy.

The deputy calls for backup, which takes about eight minutes to arrive. Once other deputies arrive he said he has a “big black male” who he had “to yell at him pretty hard” to get him to comply with his orders.

Roberts’ wife also comes outside during those eight minutes. The deputy orders her back in the house and says she will be arrested if she doesn’t comply. She goes back in the house but opens the garage doors and watches the exchange from inside the garage.

Roberts can be heard being argumentative while the deputy tells him why he was stopped and asks for proof of insurance. Roberts, while urging the deputy to watch his hands, says he can’t find it and the deputy informs him that he will also receive a citation for that.

The traffic stop ends with the deputy giving Roberts his citations.

“Thank you,” the deputy says. “You’re free to go.”

Roberts can be seen having a conversation with the other deputies who arrived at the scene, but that interaction cannot be heard.

Deputy’s inexperience blamed for poor interaction with Roberts

Capt. Steve Holtz, of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, who oversees patrol deputies said the deputy who stopped Roberts had about four months of experience when the stop happened and agreed that there were a few things that could have been handled differently.

According to Holtz, the deputy said he became nervous when Roberts exited the car, which resulted in his call for backup.

Both Holtz and Nehls agreed that the way the deputy addressed Roberts’ wife was not ideal and that the call for backup resulted in a much longer traffic stop than what was necessary.

“It wasn’t as professional as it should have been,” Nehls said.

Apology, reprimand and warning

Nehls said he has met with Roberts and apologized for the poor interaction with one of his deputies. He reiterated that apology Friday.

The deputy received a verbal reprimand, Holtz said. He said additional training can help address the situation and perhaps prevent a less-than-professional interaction in the future.

Holtz said that after the deputy reviewed the video with him, he acknowledged that the stop wasn’t handled in an ideal way and asked to reduce the tickets from citations to warnings.

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