UPDATE 9/1/2020 7:02 PM: An earlier version of this story referred to the document issued to Rebecca Rodgers as a citation. Lt. Jennifer Gabbert of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department gave the following response, clarifying what the document is: “That is a written warning that is given out when individuals are given a trespass warning. There is no fee attached to it like a citation.”
Even after showing a doctor’s note and being allowed to enter the Tarrant County Commissioners Court building, a citizen who medically cannot wear a mask was handcuffed and given a trespass warning.
Texas is also currently under a statewide mask mandate from Gov. Greg Abbott.
However, in both Tarrant commissioners’ and Abbott’s mandates, there are exemptions for those with medical issues or disabilities—exemptions that officials still seemingly disregarded Tuesday morning for citizen Rebecca Rodgers.
“I’m just a little shocked,” Rodgers said, her voice sounding shaken.
Starting 10 weeks ago, Rodgers and others began addressing the county commissioners weekly regarding their mask mandate. The citizens went again today, driven by how “tired [they are] of the draconian measures that Glen Whitley is putting out there.”
“I have a doctor’s note because I cannot wear a mask,” Rodgers told Texas Scorecard. “I’ve had it every week that I’ve been going. They know who I am. I show it to them. I go in.”
Today began no differently. As usual, Rodgers was asked to show her doctor’s note at the county building and was then let inside. Officials gave her a small paper ticket as a token to prove she’s allowed to be in the building without a mask.
“They change it up every week,” she said. “Some weeks, they give you a ticket; some weeks, they don’t. If you’re asked, you have to show it to indicate that you have an exemption.”
Rodgers went into a separate waiting room to speak to the commissioners, a room where those without masks are segregated from everyone else, then later walked back into the foyer to see if her friend, Janet, had arrived.
Rodgers didn’t find her friend, but instead encountered Lieutenant Wilcox of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department, who asked if she had an exemption (Rodgers confirmed), then told her to stay in the waiting room.
“I said, ‘No, sir, I am looking for my friend. I will go as soon as I find her,’” Rodgers recalled. She said Wilcox repeated his instruction for her to return to the waiting room because she wasn’t wearing a mask, and Rodgers again said she was looking for her friend and would return to the room later. Rodgers said this exchange happened once more before Lt. Wilcox took action.
“He took my arm, twisted it, put it behind my back, and he said, ‘I’m escorting you off the premises,’” Rodgers said. She adds she jerked her hand away and told Wilcox not to touch her.
“He took both my hands and handcuffed me,” she said
“Two officers escorted her back in here with handcuffs,” Janet Michelle told Texas Scorecard. “They grabbed her stuff off the table. They wouldn’t let her back into the room.”
Rodgers was then escorted outside and issued a trespass warning, saying if she were to enter the taxpayer-funded county commissioners building again, it would be considered trespassing.
“All I simply did was [look] for my friend,” she said. “And I said I wasn’t going back into the room until I found her. I didn’t cause a scene. I wasn’t ugly.”
“They wrote me that, and I left because I can’t afford to go to prison. I can’t afford to have charges brought against me,” she cried. “I just am tired of being segregated. I’m tired of all these draconian measures being put on people.”
“People are tired of it,” she added.
Texas Scorecard has sent inquiries to all of the Tarrant County commissioners and the Tarrant County sheriff’s office. This article will be updated with their replies.
Rodgers isn’t the only individual who cannot wear a mask. A woman identifying herself as Jodie testified to that effect to the commissioners in July, and Whitley told her that only a doctor’s note was needed.
A copy of Rodgers’ doctor’s note and ticket provided to her upon entering the county building can be seen here.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Brooks: 817-370-4500; email@example.com
Precinct 2 Commissioner Devan Allen: 817-248-6099; DJAllen2@tarrantcounty.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Precinct 3 Commissioner Gary Fickes: 817-248-6295 ; email@example.com
Precinct 4 Commissioner J.D. Johnson: 817-238-4400; firstname.lastname@example.org
County Judge Glen Whitley: 817-884-1441; email@example.com
This article has bee updated since publication.