Sheriff Johnson of Fannon County, TX Reels Under Painful Criticism After His Deputies’ Misconduct Becomes Public
A body cam video released last Wednesday went viral shedding new light on an incident that happened August 2018. In a bizarre development, officers from the same department indicted in the video followed up on their intimidation of the same family again.
Joi Eachus lives with her family at their Fannon County property in Texas. This warped tale of “retributory justice” started on August 9, 2018, when Kenneth Steelman, a Fannin County deputy, responded to an animal disturbance complaint at Eachus’ property.
Explaining the video of that incident, Sheriff Mark Johnson said, “The young lady comes up to the front door and they started talking,” he contends. “You can see in the video they had a different kind of conversation, and things kind of escalated and went south.”
Okay! Going further south of Texas, you are not likely to end up in a happy place; the deputy arrested Eachus and she countered with a request for an assault charge against deputy Steelman.
Sheriff Johnson, being a worldly man that he is, could see the situation as clear as daylight. He had Texas Rangers carry an inquiry into the incident who cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, while charges against Eachus were also dismissed.
“The deputy in question was placed on administrative leave until the investigation was completed, and once it was over he was called back to work,” the sheriff said.
I beg to differ! If everyone was righteous then why was there an arrest and an assault charge was thrown out by prosecutors? The ever-astute Sheriff Johnson reasons that they did “some retraining on de-escalation and things” so deputies have a better understanding of their circumstances. Deputy Steelman was also retrained in arrest search and seizure topics.
But this week, the release of the body cam video from that incident wounded Johnson.
“This video was shared with many, many groups, and it was done for a purpose: Hate groups, law enforcement hate groups,” Johnson said. “We’ve had so many hate emails, so many nasty responses on our sheriff’s office Facebook page that I made the decision to take it down.”Sheriff Johnson, Fannon County PD, Speaking To KTEN
Despite the criticism, he has vowed to carry on the work of helping and safeguarding people to the best of their abilities. “We have lots of new training that we put in place to get the officers better trained, to be better prepared for all situations, and that’s what I’m excited about,” Johnson exclaimed, not letting the criticism dampen his spirits.
That could’ve been that. And everyone would’ve moved on to their next viral video — one that didn’t feature the Fannon County Police Department. But…
Texas Police came to the Eachus House a day after the story of this brutal arrest was made public — a move that reeks of retaliation.
A Fannin County Texas deputy showed up at their home, asking questions — a day after the story aired on Wednesday about Deputy Steelman’s, of the same department, involvement in brutalizing a woman who asked him to leave since he did not have a warrant to be on her property.
Stella Eachus, Joi Eachus’ mother, answered the door on Thursday, following the Wednesday story, to find a Fannin County Deputy Hatanville at her door.
Eachus answered the door with a camera in-hand after several incidents of harassment.
“Can I ask you why?” Eachus asks deputy Hatanville, standing in her door.
“The plate on the car comes back as Nagy, so I was just checking to see….”
“We don’t own it,” Eachus replies.
“OK, alright then. Y’all have a good night,” the deputy says, as he walks away with his wrist pressed to his gun.
“Do you have a card?” she asks with fear in her voice.
“Yes, ma’am, I can grab you one real quick outta my—”
“Would you, please?” Eachus asks.
Deputy Hatanville walks away and politely returns with a card, this time without his hand on his gun.
“Here you go, ma’am?”
“Is that it?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he tells her politely as he hands her a card.
“Y’all have a good night.”
He walks away.
Now, the wounded Sheriff is pained to the core; it seems the world is out to get him and his deputies. Sheriff Johnson is of the view that not only say independent news media but people publicly complaining must be part of “hate groups,” when all that happened was a deputy from the same department arrived a day later to ask questions in an apparent “tap and rap,” or “knock and talk” intimidation tactic to harass some woman.
Except she did not answer the door.
Eachus family says this wasn’t a one-off incident of intimidation. With two on video, it’s not a leap of faith to believe them on face value alone.
“They have gone as far as having an officer follow me from my driveway all the way into downtown Bonham and it’s eight miles from my parent’s house,” Joi Eachus told Photography is Not a Crime in an interview.
“And I have had officers park at the school down the street from my parent’s house and sit in the parking lot with their car pointing to where they can see directly into my parents’ front yard and have sat there for an hour or so.”
Police is an important arm of the state, the greater the need for an organization the higher standard of morality will be ascribed to them. This is not to hate on law enforcement neither to condone nor support violence against the police in any way. In fact, their constitutional role is pivotal and no other agency could fill in for that. That equation does not allow for the hurt of Sheriff Johnson at being criticized for dropping the ball on overseeing his deputies’ mis-conduct.
Wouldn’t it be more astute for him to recognize the problems and share what he needs to reform his department? We’re out of choices, Sheriff! We need the cops to be the best among us, and only the best among us should get to be the cops!