After the high-profile deaths of two North Texas residents at the hands of police officers, the lone black city council member in a conservative suburb north of Dallas pushed his colleagues to declare a “black state of emergency” this fall.
Now that effort could play a role in costing him his job.
During Tuesday’s McKinney City Council meeting, members are expected to receive a report on thousands of signatures that, if certified as expected, will mandate a recall election against La’Shadion Shemwell.
Shemwell has for more than a year been a controversial figure in the city for much of his term, thanks to brushes with the law and angry comments he made about the city’s police after he was arrested during a traffic stop in May 2018.
But the petition to remove him came nearly a month after Shemwell unsuccessfully pushed the council to adopt an emergency proclamation and tweeted that people should refrain from traveling to Texas in light of the police shootings.
“WHEREAS the State of Texas and its local governments have declared war on black and brown citizens by conspiring to kill, injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate, and to willfully deprive citizens of their constitutional rights while acting under color of law,” reads the resolution, according to a tweet Shemwell posted in October. There was never a vote on the proclamation at the council, and there was never an item up for action because only the mayor can issue proclamations.
Since then, the petition to recall Shemwell collected more than 3,000 signatures, including from the city’s mayor and three members of the City Council. If the signatures are validated, the petition will trigger a recall election if Shemwell doesn’t resign voluntarily.
Those in favor of the motion to oust Shemwell, the second black person to have a seat on McKinney’s City Council, say he’s lied numerous times to the public, including regarding the circumstances surrounding the May 2018 speeding ticket. Shemwell initially said he was racially profiled but later backpedaled after reviewing body camera footage of the arrest and acknowledged he was more argumentative than he remembered.
Many of his opponents also questioned his ethics after a Collin County grand jury decided not to indict Shemwell on a family violence charge after a woman he had dated reportedly accused him of attacking her. They’ve also accused him of lying and fabricating stories in order to receive attention. (In his tweets highlighting his proclamation, he tagged celebrities like Beyoncé, Meek Mill and Whoopi Goldberg to attempt to get their attention and support.)
Shemwell, who did not respond to inquiries from The Texas Tribune, has maintained the recall effort is racially motivated.
“This is white supremacy in the form of good ol’ boys: ‘Do what we do, or else,’” Shemwell told The Dallas Morning News.
But Shemwell’s detractors say he’s made a long list of incendiary or “crazy” comments while in office. Jolie Williams, a McKinney resident helping collect signatures for the petition, lives outside of Shemwell’s district and first heard about him from a close friend who lives in his district.
“You can’t indict everybody on an incident that happened with one or two people,” Williams said of Shemwell’s “black state of emergency” comment. “Are there bad police officers? Yes. Do they need to be held accountable for it? Yes. But not every police officer is bad.”