City Council terminates Officer Stem

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Other incidents cited as contributing factors

In a special session of the Hearne City Council held Saturday May 10 the Hearne City Council voted unanimously to terminate officer Stephen Stem.

Mayor Ruben Gomez, once calling the meeting to order addressed camera crews from across the state of Texas as well as a packed chamber of Hearne citizens. Many were in attendance, called to do so, by New Black Panther Party leader Quanell X during a rally held in front on the Hearne Police station last Thursday.

Quanell X put Hearne Mayor Gomez on the spot, demanding that the Hearne City Council “do the right thing.” “If this man does the right thing, protect him, help he get re-elected because he is not affraid to do the right thing and terminate this trigger-happy cop,” said X.

The Council returned from closed session and the Mayor addressed the crowd to open the session. A motion, made by Councilman Marc Catalina stated, “I make a motion that the Hearne City Council hereby direct Chief of Police Thomas Williams to terminate the employment of Officer Stephen Stem effective immediately.” The motion was seconded by Council member Matthew Gomez and passed unanimously to the cheers of the gathered crowd.

“We have discussed this with Mr. Russ, the City Attorney of record,” said Mayor Gomez.

“It is my recommendation that you do what you have done Mayor,” said Russ.

“We did our own investigation and our attorney did his investigation and based on that we followed his recommendation to terminate officer Stem,” said Mayor Gomez, “we came to our own conclusion to do what is right for the city of Hearne and it’s citizens.”

When asked about Stems work history, Russ declined comment only to say that there is a history of other incidents. “It is a totality of the circumstance that we looked at,” said Russ, “We felt like we needed to make a decision today, before the Texas Rangers concluded their investigation. With this decision the Hearne City Council in fact has instructed Police Chief Thomas to carry out the will of the Council.

Sources close to that internal investigation have reported to the Robertson County News that a police video at a recent traffic stop of a DWI suspected yielded evidence of officer Stem can be seen pressing his sidearm into the neck of the stopped DWI suspect. Though no shots were fired and the suspect was taken into custody and arrested for DWI. The City of Hearne was not made aware of that video until after the fatal shooting of Pearlie Golden.

The City of Hearne is also facing a lawsuit filed May 12 for the April 2 traffic stop involving officer Stem and three other unnamed Hearne Police Officers. Chief Thomas Williams is also named in that pending lawsuit.

Mayor Gomez went on to explain that after the Grand Jury had cleared Stem for the first shooting back in December 2012, the council felt like they could not wait for that process on this the second shooting in just under two years.

“This is a tragedy and I hate to be here today having to take action, a tragedy happened in Hearne, Texas,” Said Mayor Gomez.

The Texas Ranger investigation is ongoing, but sources close to that investigation have told us that the video surveillance footage is unusable as the police car camera was not in the line of sight of the incident, however the audio portion does reveal that less then 12 seconds lapsed from the time Stem first ordered Pearlie Golden to drop her weapon to the time he fired four shots, hitting her twice, once in the arm and once in the neck. Golden was pronounced dead at St. Josephs Hospital this past Tuesday evening.

Though many rumors have suffaced around Hearne, the Robertson County DA, Coty Siegert can neither confirm nor deny that Miss. Golden discharged her weapon. According to a report in The Eagle, Stem stated that he was “100% positive sure” she did not shoot her gun once police were on the scene.

After the meeting many residents gathered with news media crews on the front lawn of the council chambers. The Robertson County News caught up with Dr. William Foster, the president of the Hearne Oversight Committee.

“They did the right thing in there and yes I was expecting them to do the right thing,” said Foster. “I expected nothing less, he needed to be terminated immediately, taken off the payroll, and let us move forward.”

Foster was instrumental in organizing Thursdays rally to the Hearne Police Station as well as bringing the incident to the attention of New Black Panther President Quanell X. “As the president of the Hearne Oversight Committee I believe that inviting Mr. X to Hearne was in fact in the best interest of Hearne. I believe it brought more people out. If you bring a celebrity to town, people show up.” Foster went on, “We are talking about fighting injustice and Quanell X is a man that fights injustice.”

Foster refused to comment on the extent of time the New Black Panther party would remain involved in Hearne, stating he was not a member and could not speak for the organization.

As the polls closed Saturday and the final vote tally turned in all three incumbants were defeated, sitting a new voting majority on the council. All votes are under the sctutiny of the Robertson County DA’s, “I believe that as far as Hearne’s election is concerned, it is best that the State Attorney General’s Office take a look at those votes,” said Seigert. With no real timeline to that investigation the new council members are expected to be sworn in at the next regularly scheduled meeting on May 20 at 6:15 p.m. at the City Hall Annex Building.

Dennis Phillips | Publisher
Robertson County News

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