The savage takedown of a young black man in a hospital lobby by an off-duty Fort Worth police officer was kept largely out of sight for two years, but it has finally come to light. The police have placed the officer on modified duty as a trial into his behavior and subsequent lying about it to a grand jury has him facing two felonies and a misdemeanor. As we go to press, the jury is deliberating the first of the felony charges, aggravated perjury. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
On November 5, 2016, then-20-year-old Henry Newson was in the lobby of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital shortly after being discharged after a two-day stay for food poisoning. He was waiting to be picked up by his mother when a security guard, Jeremy Flores, responding to a dispatcher’s call that Newson was acting suspiciously, went to the lobby to talk with him.
Newson, who testified last week that he was uncomfortable with the questioning, can be seen in the 2016 surveillance footage borrowing a phone from a stranger to call his father, not his mother.
At that point, off-duty officer Jon Romer Jr., a 15-year veteran of the Fort Worth police department who was working as a hospital security guard, arrived and took over. According to trial reports and video footage, Romer put his hands on Newson to escort him out of the building. Newson can be seen stepping away from Romer and can be heard calling the officer “brah.”
And that’s when things got out of control: Romer immediately threw a hard right into the left side of Newson’s face, knocking him backward and off balance. Romer followed that up by grabbing Newson by his left arm, spinning him around in a circle, then putting him in a headlock. He dropped Newson to the floor and kneeled on his back.
Flores and another hospital security guard also piled on top of Newson, who was told he was being placed under arrest for resisting arrest and criminal trespass. Those charges were dropped in 2017.
The whole event probably would have gone largely unnoticed if Newson had not filed a $1 million lawsuit in November 2017 against Romer, the other two security guards, and Texas Health Resources, the parent company of Texas Health Fort Worth. Newson’s attorney, Matthew Bobo, secured the hospital security footage. A second video, this one recorded by a stranger’s cell phone, has also surfaced. Once the videos came out, it became clear that the official incident report that Romer filed was false and that he had not told Newson he was being placed under arrest before hitting him, as Romer claimed to the grand jury.
Romer will be tried on charges of official oppression and at a later date making a false report to a police officer.
Bobo did not return a phone call for this story but has said on the record that Newson has “no criminal history.”
Rev. Kyev Tatum, civil rights activist and pastor at New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth, did weigh in on the incident.
“This country and this city are at a crossroads,” Tatum told us. “It is up to us to decide whether the police have the authority to violate the civil rights of the poor, especially African-Americans, in the city of Fort Worth. Civil rights matter, and horrific incidents like this, that happen much too frequently, are a reason that a lot of poor people do not feel safe in Fort Worth.”