One University of Mississippi administrator's quick family trip to Steak 'N Shake led to her arrest. According to Local Memphis, Jessica Hughes is suing Southaven, Miss., its police department, Desoto County and others for claims that she was harassed, racially profiled and placed in handcuffs.
Hughes says she and her family went to the Southaven Steak and Shake on February 9. Her husband ran inside to correct a drive-through order, while she sat in the passenger seat with the couple's 1-year-old, 6-years-old, and 16-years-old children also in the vehicle. A police officer told Hughes that she was parked in a handicap spot.
"We didn't even notice it, it was storming raining that night and so it was just an honest mistake," Hughes explained.
What could have been a quick fix of her simply moving the car allegedly turned into an aggressive exchange as his line of questioning seemed racially motivated.
"He was asking did I have any warrants? Do you have any weapons in the car, any drugs? And I was wondering, where is all this coming from for a parking violation," Hughes said.
According to the officer who arrested Hughes, she was the aggressor in the situation although he admits that he raised his voice.
Surprisingly, it wasn't parking in a handicap spot that got her arrested, rather her choice to call 911. Scared that the situation could take a turn for the worst, Hughes called 911 to speak with a supervisor. She called 911 twice, and three times to a non-emergency number for help. However, minutes later she was arrested and charged with abuse of 911.
"I'm in shock, I'm scared. Never in my life had I been arrested, I never had anything much worse than a traffic ticket," Hughes explained.
The mother of three has obtained a lawyer and plans to sue for damages in the amount of $500,000 in addition to a formal apology.
The Southaven Police Department issued the following statement Tuesday evening:
“While the City of Southaven Police Department has not been served with a lawsuit, it was recently made aware of the federal complaint filed by Mrs. Hughes. The Southaven Police take all complaints seriously; however, we do not agree with all the allegations in Mrs. Hughes' complaint. The Southaven Police Department has an obligation to enforce all laws within the City and is committed to doing so. Any misuse of 911 services is a very serious matter that can affect the safety and well-being of other citizens. In the event that the City of Southaven is served with a lawsuit by Mrs. Hughes, the City will vigorously defend its Police Department and its officers based on all the facts.” – Steven E. Pirtle, Chief of Police
That's certainly not the formal apology Hughes seeks, but she is being represented by Carlos Moore Esq., an attorney who knows all too well (just as we do) that a traffic stop can easily turn deadly.
"I currently represent two individual families, they are dead because of simple traffic stops. The Darrius Stewart case out of Memphis and Anton Shumpert out of Tupelo," Moore said.
All of this could have easily been avoided; however, now that it has happened, Hughes will likely not back down. We're here for her getting the coins (and apology!) she deserves.