Tyler police chief, mayor respond to Ike evacuee accusations - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Tyler police chief, mayor respond to Ike evacuee accusations

The city of Tyler has been thrust into the national spotlight. A story written by the Associated Press describes Hurricane Ike evacuees complaining of violence and bad shelter conditions. The article makes bold accusations about what went on at the old Walmart shelter. Today KLTV 7's Danielle Capper spoke to city leaders who say folks have not gotten the whole story.

"There were so many positive stories and only one side was brought out in this article," said Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle.

"I take it as one person's view," said Mayor Barbara Bass.  

Mayor Bass and Chief Swindle said with 6,000 evacuees, they did everything they could have and more.

"I think you have outside people come in and want to make a story bigger than what it is," said Chief Swindle. " They weren't part of the shelter, they weren't out there. They didn't put the time in the trenches to know really what was going on."

"We have limited space, that is just a reality. Given what we had I think we did the best we could," said Mayor Bass.

The day of the hurricane, a fight broke out at the shelter. The article asserts Tyler Police injured innocent bystanders when they used pepper spray and tasers.

"No evacuees were hurt, the people we arrested were not seriously hurt or injured," said Chief Swindle.

The article also claims police were heard using racial slurs during the fight.

"In fact, it was the evacuees calling the officers the n word. That's what's really sad. So it's very possible that somebody not involved in that heard somebody using the n word but in fact it was some of the people we took into custody that were calling the officers the n word," said Chief Swindle.

Chief Swindle says consideration must be given to the character of many individuals at the shelter.

"We had registered sex offenders, we had gang members, we had in the course of the deal drug dealers, we had people prostituting in there," said the Chief. "Make no mistake, we had some of the worst of the worst of Beaumont."

Both say the city went above and beyond, providing evacuees not only their basic needs but much more, from hosting birthday parties, bringing in TVs, recreation for the kids, and transportation around the city.

"We were helping people in need and next time we would do the same thing again to try and help our sister city," said Mayor Bass.

The article also talks about a 15 year old boy who was tasered. Chief Swindle says what the article does not say is that the boy was about six feet tall and nearly 250 pounds. Chief Swindle says the boy was holding a chair above his head, and was about to strike an officer with it.

Danielle Capper, reporting. dcapper@kltv.com

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