Felony Charge Dismissed Against Black Woman Brutally Beaten in Dallas Parking Lot Dispute, Police Chief Stands by Decision to Issue Warrant
A felony mischief charge filed against a woman physically attacked by a man in a Deep Ellum parking lot on March 21 has been dropped, officials with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office confirmed.
An arrest warrant had been issued Tuesday for 24-year-old L’Daijohnique Lee for damage she caused to suspect Austin Shuffield’s truck on the night of her assault. The damage to the truck amounted to over $2,500, making it a felony. That warrant was later recalled.
Lee’s attorney, S. Lee Merritt, said he expected Dallas County District Attorney John Cruezot to dismiss the charge against his client. During a Wednesday press conference, Lee, 24, expressed anger that she was charged at all and said she felt the Dallas Police Department was “basically saying [Shuffield’s] truck was more valuable than my life,” NBC 5 reported.
Despite the backlash, Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall stood by her decision to issue the warrant.
“We have the responsibility as a police department to file that charge and the district attorney in this case or any other case has the ability to either accept that charge or reject it,” said Hall.
A Black woman who was viciously attacked during a parking lot dispute in Dallas, Texas, last month now faces a felony charge related to the case.
The Dallas Police Department on Tuesday charged L’Daijohnique Lee, 24, with felony criminal mischief for damage she caused to her attacker Austin Shuffield‘s truck after he assaulted her. At a news conference, Deputy Chief Thomas Castro said Lee admitted to causing the damages, which was estimated at just over $3,000.
“It’s not the intention of the Dallas Police Department to pick one side or the other,” Castro told the media. “We value all our citizens. We simply had information that was provided to us on a criminal offense [and] we thoroughly investigated that offense.”
“We took the action that was taken today,” he added.
In Texas, criminal mischief is a state felony if the damage costs between $2,500 and $30,000, local station WFAA 8 reported.
Lee’s attorney, S. Lee Merritt, said his client is less than happy about authorities’ decision to charge her.
“She’s very angry that despite the context of her being the victim in a vicious assault, the Dallas police department are pursuing a charge against her anyway,” Merritt said Tuesday.
The young woman reportedly suffered a head injury and busted eardrum when Shuffield attacked her on March 21. According to Lee, the dispute unfolded after she pulled into a parking lot near the Dallas arts district of Deep Ellum and blocked Shuffield’s truck from leaving. That’s when the suspect got out of his vehicle and asked her to move.
Their dispute escalated, however, as the two exchanged words. Witness video from the incident showed Shuffield, 30, with what appeared to be a gun as he screamed at the woman before slapping a cellphone from her hand. Lee responded by hitting her attacker in the face.
Bystanders watched as Shuffield then delivered a series of jabs to the victim’s face and head. Even as Lee doubled over, Shuffield landed at least three or more blows, knocking the young woman to the ground.
Police later charged Shuffield with aggravated assault causing bodily injury, public drunkenness and interference with an emergency call. After public protests over what critics called a “slap on the wrist,” authorities upgraded the charges against Shuffield to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawfully carrying a weapon, WFAA 8 reported.
In his arrest affidavit, Shuffield said he hit Lee in self-defense after she assaulted him first. He also said Lee shattered his pickup truck’s back window with a jump box used to charge car batteries.
For many, however, the criminal charges against Lee are still unfair. Attorney Lee Merritt addressed the incident in a Twitter post, writing: “A Black woman alone in a dark parking lot is stalked, harassed and assaulted by a white male.”
“He brandishes a gun, knock away her phone when she tries to call for help — then beats her mercilessly with blows to the head,” he continued. “[The] DPD just found a way to charge HER with a felony.”
In a statement, The Dallas County Criminal District Attorney’s Office said it had no prior knowledge of the charge and only learned that Dallas police had issued a warrant for Lee’s arrest through the media.
“When and if charges reach the District Attorney’s office, we will take appropriate action,” the office said.
When asked about the potential for more protests, police Chief Castro said the department encourages people to exercise their First Amendment rights and “hopes that they do so peacefully.”
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