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In video, Rep. Ronny Jackson yells profanities at Texas trooper, is put on ground

Texas authorities released body camera and dashboard video in which Rep. Ronny Jackson, in red shirt, yells profanities at deputies and troopers at a rodeo.
Texas Department of Public Safety / Screenshot by NPR
Texas authorities released body camera and dashboard video in which Rep. Ronny Jackson, in red shirt, yells profanities at deputies and troopers at a rodeo.

Rep. Ronny Jackson shouted profanities and cursed at Texas troopers during a disagreement at a rodeo in late July — as seen in police footage of the incident that the Texas Department of Public Safety recently released.

Jackson and others were trying to help a girl apparently experiencing seizures. But officials say he ignored orders to move back as emergency responders arrived and wound up in handcuffs.

Jackson disputes that version of events, saying he wasn't told to step away.

The incident began in the late hours of July 29, at a rodeo in White Deer, a small town northeast of Amarillo, in the Republican's home district. The Department of Public Safety released body camera and dashboard video to media outlets after an open records request from The Texas Tribune.

The footage shows Jackson angrily yelling at police officers in lengthy exchanges after the girl, 15, was taken to a hospital. At one point, he threatens to call Gov. Greg Abbott. Large portions of the video lack audio, including a portion that would likely have included any orders to step back.

Editor's note: The video embedded below contains explicit language.

"I'm glad the video is out," Jackson said via Twitter. "It shows the incompetence of the authorities and their complete disregard for the young girl in distress."

He then criticized Carson County Sheriff Tam Terry, whose deputies briefly detained the congressman during the heated exchanges, including putting him on the ground.

The video emerged days after Terry's office released an incident report alleging that Jackson said he would beat up a state trooper. The sheriff also says the congressman vowed to work to oust him in his next election.

Jackson appears roughly 13 minutes into the video

The video shows a group of people trying to attend to a 15-year-old girl lying on the ground (her face is blurred for her privacy). The footage doesn't include audio for much of that portion, but the mood seems watchful and anxious.

The mood abruptly shifts shortly after Jackson's arrival. As emergency services arrive, police order everyone to move back.

"The doctor raised his voice claiming he was a doctor and would not listen to my command," Young says, in an email released by the Texas Department of Public Safety. "I raised my voice in return and directed him to get back. The doctor then became agitated and state he would F me up."

That's when two Carson County sheriff's deputies, Colten Daniels and China Elizande-Alexander, move to restrain Jackson as he attempts to step toward Young, the trooper says.

As the gurney is wheeled away, the body camera pivots to show a sheriff's deputy using an arm lock to force Jackson down onto the ground and onto his stomach, as he apparently tries to rush toward Young. The deputies handcuff Jackson's hands behind his back and lift him back up.

Soon afterward, the trooper walks over to Jackson, and the recording's audio kicks in, depicting Jackson arguing that no one told him to get back — and the trooper insisting otherwise.

Congressman singles out a Texas trooper

"You are a f***ing full-on d***!" Jackson told Trooper Cade Young as he stood with his hands cuffed behind him. "You better recalculate, motherf***er!"

"Everybody here asked you to get back," Young says.

A woman can then be heard, seemingly saying she can get Jackson home. As he's led away, he continues shouting.

Moments later, Young goes to his vehicle, where Jackson and the woman are standing nearby. Soon afterward, they speak again — and Jackson appears incensed, accusing Young of rushing in and telling him to get back.

"I was just trying to help, dude," Jackson said.

"I know you were there to help, right?" Young replies. "But when I've got EMS coming on scene, I've got multiple parents asking..."

"Nobody was there yet, though!" Jackson interjects.

"Yes they were," the trooper says.

Jackson then cites his credentials as a former emergency room doctor, saying the girl might have hypoglycemia.

"No, she was anemic," the trooper replies. Jackson then cites his medical training once more.

"I'm glad you're an ER doctor, but you're not EMS and you're not emergency services," Young says, before Jackson cuts him off, insisting no one told him to get back.

"I believe Ronnie Jackson had been drinking due to his belligerent actions," the trooper said in his account of the altercation.

Jackson denied he had been drinking in a tweet responding to a Dallas Morning News report on the altercation last week.

Jackson grew incensed as he argued with troopers and deputies over their handling of a teenager's medical emergency. He was briefly detained, before being let go.
/ Texas Department of Public Safety / Screenshot by NPR
/
Texas Department of Public Safety / Screenshot by NPR
Jackson grew incensed as he argued with troopers and deputies over their handling of a teenager's medical emergency. He was briefly detained, before being let go.

This is not Jackson's first rodeo

Jackson, 56, is a retired Navy rear admiral and former White House physician who has been involved in several controversies centering on alcohol and allegations of insulting and abusive behavior.

In a scathing report from 2021, the Pentagon's inspector general said Jackson "disparaged, belittled, bullied, and humiliated" his subordinates and fostered a toxic work environment that undermined the unit. It also says he "engaged in inappropriate conduct involving the use of alcohol" during two presidential trips.

Out of 60 former staff members of the White House Medical Unit who had interactions with him and were interviewed, the report states, "Only four witnesses told us that they did not experience, see, or hear about RDML Jackson yelling, screaming, cursing, or belittling subordinates."

Jackson denied the allegations, which he alleged were a "political hit job" that sabotaged his bid to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. He is currently serving his second term in Congress.

Troopers seemed unsure about who Jackson is

"I'm gonna call the governor tomorrow," Jackson says. "I'm gonna talk to him about this s***, because this is f***ing ridiculous."

Soon afterward, Young steps away, and it becomes clear that many of the people around Jackson that night were unsure who he is.

"Who is that?" a trooper says, as Jackson can be heard spouting obscenities in the distance.

"Someone said he's a senator," another trooper replies.

Young then notes that he had to tell Jackson to get back from the girl three times, because EMS had arrived.

"We all told him to get back," another trooper responds.

"EMS was also telling him to quit putting stuff in her mouth, and quit touching her," Young says. Jackson and others at the scene reportedly wanted to give the girl a piece of gum — but medics disagreed, citing a risk of choking.

Another trooper then adds that the girl's parents also didn't want Jackson there.

Jackson served as physician to presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. He started his White House tenure in President George W. Bush's administration, when he worked in the White House Medical Unit, overseen by the Defense Department.

The Texas Department of Public Safety told NPR on Tuesday that the agency isn't investigating the incident any further.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.