A former Williamson County sheriff’s deputy was indicted by a grand jury Thursday on assault and official oppression charges.
The charges are for an April 21, 2019 incident involving the deputy’s use of force on a Black woman during an arrest.
The former deputy, Christopher Pisa, stopped Imani Nembhard for not having a front license plate, according to a statement from Pisa’s attorney Robert McCabe. The statement says Pisa noted two young children in the back seat not restrained in car seats. Pisa “attempted to have Ms. Nembhard exit the vehicle and both a verbal and subsequent physical confrontation occurred between them.”
Nembhard told the Austin American-Statesman that Pisa, while trying to arrest her, threw her to the ground as her daughters in the car yelled at the deputy to let her go. She said she asked Pisa why she was being arrested, and he wouldn’t respond.
She spent two days in jail after being charged for two criminal offenses — assault on a public servant and resisting arrest.
The Williamson County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the charges against Nembhard. District Attorney Shawn Dick said the office immediately declined the charges, and Nembhard was released.
Dick said upon reviewing body and dash cam footage from the arrest, the office sought to involve the Texas Rangers for an investigation into Pisa. The Texas Rangers concluded that investigation and returned their findings to the District Attorney’s Office.
Their findings were put before a grand jury, which indicted Pisa.
McCabe’s statement said that the deputy’s actions were due to “the systemic failure of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office to best train and supervise their cadets in interactions with the public.”
He added that Nembhard should not have been arrested and put in jail, but also that Pisa was a victim in this incident for being “negligently trained” by the sheriff’s department. He said Pisa was part of a culture at the department that gave “gift cards and rewards for ‘good’ use of force incidents.”
Pisa’s indictment comes amid other investigations into use-of-force incidents by the Williamson County sheriff’s department. Most recently, the department is being investigated for the case involving Javier Ambler, a 40-year-old Black man who died in deputies’ custody in March 2019.
“We take every use-of-force case seriously,” Dick said. “We have high expectations for how law enforcement should interact with our community.”
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