DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) – An elderly man racing to the hospital Tuesday afternoon says a Diboll Police officer held him up for hours during a traffic stop, almost costing him his life. Making the medical emergency worse, police handcuffed and detained his elderly driver. Why the officer thought the two men were fugitives is still a mystery.
Johnny Hodge was still hospitalized Friday and was said to be alert and talking as he recovers from his medical emergency and his brush with the law.
You're looking at two bandits. That's what Johnny Hodge says a Diboll Police officer called them.
"Fugitives," said a laughing Johnny Hodge. "Two fugitives or something."
What happened though, is not funny. Hodge was in the backseat of a friend's truck, gasping for air, hooked up to an oxygen tank. With the emergency flashers on, they were racing to the hospital, when Officer Grant Jones stopped them for speeding at the intersection of College Street and U.S. Highway 59. Hodge says he couldn't afford to call an ambulance because his insurance didn't cover the cost.
"After what he seen what he's dealing with he should have put his gun in his holster," said Hodge. "Two old men, gray headed, one with an oxygen tank and the other can't walk."
He says he told the officer he was trying to make it to a hospital room at Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where his doctor was waiting.
"He wouldn't listen to me or him either," said Hodge. "He just Mr. Big Boy. He gonna rule over everything."
Tracey Lott was the one driving. He says a screaming officer approached them with his gun in hand. What happened next, Lott still can't believe.
"Then he took that pistol and hit that glass and shattered it all to pieces for no reason," said Hodge.
Then he was written a ticket for speeding and failure to stop. Lott is still shaken up.
"He turned the motor off of the truck," said Lott in between tears. "We sat there for about an hour and a half and then he handcuffed me."
His wife, Arlene, watched everything from a car behind them. "With his pistol he broke the window out and then he manhandled my husband," she said.
Diboll Police Chief Kent Havard says the department has replaced the shattered window and dropped the charges.
"This day and time an officer has to take precautionary measures and safety issues have to be involved in this and things like that, but as I said it's just an unfortunate incident that's taken place for both parties," said Havard.
What Chief Havard couldn't tell us, is why the officer felt force was necessary in dealing with four elderly people.
"I can't speak for him right now, of course we got his report and of course there's things that were not going to release until we finish our investigation," said Havard.
For the man still recovering in a hospital room, Hodge says his confidence in police is shattered.
"We just don't need cops like that in Texas, anywhere, talking to old folks and doing them like they do them," said Hodge. "They should show some respect to the elderly."
The dash cam video from the police car that pulled over Tracey Lott could provide another important perspective to the story. We've submitted an open records request to obtain that video from Diboll PD.
Havard says the department is reviewing Jones's report and the dash cam video from his patrol car. Next week, they will turn over their recommendation about Jones's future to the city manager.
Havard says if you plan on driving during a medical emergency, you should call law enforcement and give them a description of your vehicle and the location you're driving through. He says driving with your emergency flashers doesn't exempt you from following the law.