Houston activist Quanell X demands firings of 2 METRO PD officers now on desk duty
A motorist who says he had a mental health crisis last month near a Houston transit center claims that his encounter with METRO police left him with severe burns on his torso.
Harvey Morgan, 36, unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a blood-soaked bandage wrapped around his abdomen during a news conference with Quanell X on Sept. 18 outside METRO’s headquarters high-rise in downtown Houston.
“I was treated like an animal,” Morgan said.
METRO’s preliminary review indicates that Morgan fell and hit his head while fleeing the scene of an accident, according to a news release from METRO Police Chief Vera Bumpers. The statement also said that the two officers involved have been placed on desk duty during an investigation of the incident, which includes an examination of body camera footage.
“They have been suspended, but that’s not enough. These officers need to be terminated. They should no longer be METRO police officers,” Quanell X said. “He needed emergency mental health intervention—not to be cooked alive on the concrete by some unprofessional officers.”
Morgan said he came to a stop around 3 p.m. on Aug. 14 near the Acres Homes Transit Center at 1220 W. Little York. Passengers in the vehicle called 911. Officers with METRO PD were the first to respond.
“He was having a mental health breakdown,” said Quanell X, who described how Morgan was handcuffed, facedown, on the ground for an extended period of time on a very hot day.
According to Weather Underground historical data, the temperature on Aug. 14 was 97 degrees just before 4 p.m. at Hobby Airport.
Morgan reports screaming for nearly 30 minutes that he was burning.
“When they pulled him up off the ground, blood was everywhere,” Quanell X said. “His skin was falling off his body.”
The flesh had a “grapefruit-size hole” in it and the wounds still are not healed, said Quanell X, who provided graphic images of the injuries. Morgan reportedly stayed in the Memorial Hermann burn unit for a week.
“The negligence, the incompetence, the lack of proper training is at the root of why these officers forced this brother to lay on the ground and be burned alive,” the activist said. “Where is the human compassion? Where is the humanity in these officers?”
The Houston Police Department (HPD) eventually responded to the incident. HPD officers arrested Morgan on one misdemeanor count of evading arrest. That case remains unresolved.
Quanell X commended Bumpers for her response to his inquiry last week, but said she seemed “totally unaware” of the encounter with injuries that happened a month earlier.
“I have to give credit to Chief Bumpers. As soon as I spoke to Chief Bumpers, she immediately got on top of it as she said that she would,” he said.
Other activists also spoke at the news conference to show support for Morgan.
A person is not “a criminal because of a mental breakdown,” said Dr. Candice Matthews, statewide accountability chair for the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.
“He was baked in the streets,” activist Cynthia Pharms said. “These officers not only need to be fired, they need to be indicted and they need extensive jail time.”
Though their names have not been released, one officer is a rookie who has been on the force a year and a half and the other has worked for the police department for four years.
METRO Police Chief Vera Bumpers released the following statement:
“After learning of this incident, I immediately launched an internal investigation and placed the two officers in question on desk duty, pending the outcome of that investigation. At this point, investigators are still gathering the facts of the case and reviewing all evidence, including bodycam video. MPD has strict guidelines concerning use of force and does not, under any circumstances, condone excessive force. In this case, what we know is that the suspect was fleeing the scene of a traffic accident, tripped and fell while running. The footage we have reviewed does not indicate injuries to the torso area, but the suspect did appear to be bleeding from the head. When he refused to comply with officers’ requests, he was detained while on the ground. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested by HPD for evading arrest.
MPD is constantly re-evaluating its policies and provides ongoing de-escalation training for officers to ensure we are protecting lives and property while enforcing the law. Quite a few details shared with media conflict with some of the early information we have which is why we must complete our investigation and refrain from making any more comments at this time.”