March 1, 1996 in Nation/World

Ex-Astronaut Says Officer Too Forceful

Associated Press
 

A police officer was suspended after a former astronaut accused him of twisting her wrist and slamming her to the ground during a traffic stop.

Mae Jemison, stopped for making an illegal turn, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for failing to pay an old speeding ticket.

When told she was under arrest, Jemison threw down her car keys in disbelief, said her attorney, Rusty Hardin. As the officer started to handcuff her, she reached down to pick up the keys.

“When she does that, he grabs her left hand, knocking her wallet and paper out of it, twists her wrist and throws her arms up behind her back,” forcing her to the ground, Hardin said.

Jemison, who flew in the 1992 Endeavor shuttle mission, was the first black woman to fly in space.

She complained about the Saturday arrest in a letter to the Nassau Bay Police Chief Robert Holden.

“In my opinion, there is absolutely no justification for an officer to treat the people he is sworn to protect in this high-handed and abusive manner,” she wrote.

The department announced Wednesday that Officer Henry Hughes III had been suspended with pay pending an investigation.

Neither Hughes nor Holden returned telephone calls from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Jemison remained in custody for about two hours before being released on bonds for both traffic violations. Her lawyer said she thought she had taken care of the speeding ticket several years ago.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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