Humble TX July 19 2017 The Kasem family had no idea why two armed men showed up on the Fourth of July on the front lawn of their Humble home.
The men had silver badges hanging around their necks and handguns on their hips, leaving the family to wonder if they were police officers.
A cellphone video appears to show the pair drag a handcuffed young man to a sedan, punch him, hit him with metal batons and slam his leg in the car door. They seem to use pepper spray on the young man’s wife and mother-in-law, who collapses motionless on the grass.
A cellphone video recorded July 4 appears to show two men with silver badges hanging from their necks draw their handguns, drag a handcuffed man, punch him, slam his leg in a car door, hit him with metal batons and use pepper spray on his wife and mother-in-law outside the family’s Humble home. The armed men, who family members said never identified themselves, were not police officers. They were bounty hunters, working on a holiday to arrest Keemo Fell, 22, on a misdemeanor warrant that the family’s lawyer said had expired. The family is now suing the two men and the private security company that employed them, seeking more than $1 million in damages, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in state court.
The armed men, who family members said never identified themselves, were not police officers. They were bounty hunters, working on a holiday to detain Keemo Fell, 22, for reasons that remain unclear.The family's lawyer, who provided the video to the Chronicle, said they may have been acting on an expired misdemeanor warrant.
Fell and the Kasems are now suing the two men and the private security company that employed them, seeking more than $1 million in damages, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in state court.
Hoda Kasem, Fell’s 21-year-old wife, said the confrontation left her family members injured: her 49-year-old mother had a stroke that damaged her short-term memory, her 69-year-old father suffered a broken rib, she suffered a neck injury that still hurts weeks later and Fell’s knees are so damaged he can no longer play sports. Her 15-year-old brother, who filmed the incident, was not injured.
The lawsuit identifies the two men as Demethrius Lister and Autry Haygood Jr., employees of T Force Security Solutions.
Haygood, 31, got his state license as a commissioned security officer less than two weeks before the Independence Day incident. Lister, 51, has been licensed since at least 2013 as a commissioned security officer, personal protection officer and private investigator.
Such licenses allow people to work as bounty hunters, private citizens who detain bond jumpers and others with warrants out for their arrest. In Texas, they may use force if it’s needed to make an arrest.
The freelance officers have drawn scrutiny in recent months after a May 30 stakeout in a North Texas car dealership ended in a fatal shootout. The previous month, a group of seven bounty hunters shot up a car in Tennessee, killing an innocent man. All seven were indicted on murder charges.
Texas law prohibits private security officers from wearing a badge or other symbol that implies they are government-employed law enforcement officers. The state's occupations code also requires they not execute a warrant without written authorization from the bondsman.
However, Fell had no unresolved criminal cases or bail bond charges, according to the family’s lawyer, Michael Fleming.
Fell was arrested at a bar in October 2015 after he and Kasem argued, according to court records.
Kasem said in a phone interview Monday that Fell never hit her, calling the assault charge against him “a big misunderstanding.”
Fell used a bondsman to cover the $1,500 bail. In May 2017, he pleaded guilty to a lower-level misdemeanor assault charge and served 40 days in jail.
Hoda Kasem and the family attorney say Fell had resolved both the criminal charge and the bond payments.
It’s not clear whether the bondsman, Cedric Claiborne of Greenspoint Bail Bond, might have asked a bounty hunter to detain Fell. Claiborne did not respond to requests for comment left at his office Monday.
It’s possible there was a clerical mistake; the Harris County district clerk’s records indicate a warrant was returned unexecuted in March 2016.
Lister, Haygood and the security company’s owner, Antoine Turner, did not respond to multiple calls and emails Monday.
Kasem said that if she could speak with the bounty hunters, “I’d ask them why they did that. How come they wouldn’t even talk to us? ... Even Keemo said he would want to ask them why, why did you do this for nothing?”
Kasem called police during the altercation. She said the deputy constables who responded checked Fell’s name in their databases and reported no active warrants. They also used a garden hose to wash off Fell, whose skin was burning from the pepper spray, she said.
The family members are still reeling.
“Everybody’s still in shock,” Kasem said. “We’re all scared now. We’re worried those guys are coming back, because they got away with it.”