Surrounded by expensive homes and a lush green park, the pool in Craig Ranch, McKinney, has long functioned as a focal point for its community. Residents call the Dallas-area city an idyllic Texan town, and streets in the planned estate are referred to as “trails,” with names like Lonesome Spur, White Stallion, and Desert Dunes conjuring up images of the Old West. On hot summer days, parents and kids stroll from nearby designer brick homes to relax and cool off in the pool, which residents need a card to use. Sometimes the pool hosts movie nights, handing out popcorn as swimmers watch films on a large inflatable screen.
“I love our neighborhood,” Craig Ranch resident Shannon Barber Toon, who has lived in McKinney for four years, told BuzzFeed News. “I love that I can walk my kids to the pool. We have friends of all races. You can always come out and find people to talk to.”
Barber Toon went to the pool Friday night with her husband, Sean Toon, their two children, and her two female friends. Later that evening, though, the pool would become the latest flash point for America’s ongoing debate over race relations and police brutality. Sean Toon has claimed in multiple media interviews that the media has misrepresented the events, but Toon himself has failed to tell the full story.
Tension broke out at the pool after dozens of mostly black teenagers had arrived for an end-of-school party that grew well beyond its planned size. There was a professional DJ playing music, but no tickets were sold and the organizers didn't throw the party for profit, teens told BuzzFeed News. They also vehemently denied reports that some were using drugs or alcohol. Many kids had cards to the pool and others were using shared guest passes to gain entry, but when pool attendants stopped letting people in some began jumping the fence.
Soon, the Toons and others called police. Teens fled, and one officer began frantically rounding up anyone he could. In video of the ensuing scenes, Cpl. Eric Casebolt is seen frantically barrel-rolling into frame, before ordering mostly black teens on to the ground, while their white classmates are left to stand by and film the events. After she and her friends were ordered by Casebolt to leave, Dajerria Becton, a black teen wearing only a bikini, was wrestled to the ground by the officer. When others ran to her, Casebolt briefly drew his firearm, sending them scrambling. He was then filmed sitting atop of Becton, his knees in her back as she wailed for her mother.
Footage of the incident soon sparked a media firestorm, and almost 10 million people viewed it on YouTube. Casebolt was placed on administrative leave as his superiors investigated his actions, while black community leaders called for the officer’s firing amid a protest by hundreds of demonstrators through the town on Monday night. He resigned late Tuesday, with Chief of Police Greg Conley describing his actions as "out of control" and "indefensible."
In multiple media interviews, Sean Toon, 33, has promoted himself as a witness who is able to provide a clear, firsthand picture of the “chaos” unfolding at the pool on Friday night.
"Watching 30 seconds or seven minutes of a clip, it doesn't tell the whole story," Toon told his local ABC affiliate WFAA. “I think [Casebolt] did what he thought he had to do to control the situation.”
On Monday night, Toon was also interviewed, using only his first name, by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and explained why he called the cops. A section of the interview was replayed on Tuesday morning’s Fox & Friends, with Toon’s version of events promoted by the Fox anchors as providing a fuller picture than the seven-minute YouTube video.
What Toon has failed to mention, though, is that he was part of a group of adults that, according to teens at the pool party, initially made racist comments to the mostly black youths, sparking a violent fight.
“I’m 100% sure that he said, ‘You should go back to the Section 8 [public] housing where you’re from because you don’t belong in our neighborhood,’” Grace Stone, a 14-year-old white McKinney resident who defended her black friends, told BuzzFeed News. “That’s when I went off. I called him an asshole. He had no right to say that. You shouldn’t be that hateful. That’s when [one of Toon's female acquaintances] came up to me and said, ‘You don’t talk to adults like that.’ She was saying I needed to do something with my life and find a nice path for myself.”
Barber Toon acknowledged to BuzzFeed News the women she had been with at the pool were involved in the fight. After calling the police to complain of teens jumping the pool fence, she took her children home before the incident, leaving her husband with the two women.
Tatyana Rhodes, a Craig Ranch resident who organized the party, echoed Stone’s version of events. "This lady was saying racial slurs to some friends who came to the cookout,” Rhodes said in a YouTube interview with photographer Elroy Johnson. “She was saying things such as ‘black f**cker’ and, ‘That’s why you live in Section 8 homes.’"
"There was also a male that was saying rude things," she said. Emmanuel Obi, the lawyer now representing Rhodes, refused to allow BuzzFeed News to speak with his client to identify those she said made the racist comments.
The verbal confrontation soon became physical and a fight broke out between Rhodes and Toon’s two acquaintances, one of whom is a McKinney resident who has since deleted her Facebook page after her name was shared by activists on social media. Cell phone footage of the fight doesn’t show who became physical first, but Rhodes has alleged she was slapped by one of the women.
McKinney police spokesman Officer Terry Qualls would not comment directly on the fight between the adults and teens, but did tell BuzzFeed News “the whole incident at the pool is the subject of investigation.”
In his interview Monday night on Fox, Toon didn’t make clear that he was acquainted with the two women involved in the fight. “There was a fight between a young black girl and two middle-aged white females," he said. "They were not [security guards]. One of them I know was a resident. The other one I believe was visiting a resident there.”
On Fox, Toon also denied anyone making racist comments, saying that the teens were accusing the adult residents of racism for simply objecting to their boisterous behavior at the pool.
When asked by BuzzFeed News on Monday night whether she recalled her husband or anyone making any racist comments to the teens, Shannon Barber Toon said, “That’s where it’s a little fuzzy for me. I know there were people yelling at each other. The only racial thing I heard was spoken by some of the black girls inside the pool area saying, ‘They just want to kick us out because we black.'”
“I know I heard somebody say something about Section 8 housing,” she said. “But I don’t know who said it. I honestly don’t remember who said what.”
While refusing to provide contact information for her husband or acquaintances, Shannon Barber Toon said Tuesday “there is no way” her husband made the comments. Although she acknowledged she left before the fight broke out and had “no idea” whether her friends made racist comments, she said she “highly doubts” they made the remarks as they are “not racist in any stretch.”
Section 8 housing has been a thorny issue for the community, she said, due to proposals to bring public housing to Craig Ranch. “We hate it. We don’t want that. We moved here thinking we were moving to an upscale neighborhood,” Barber Toon said. “But it’s never been about race.”
In 2009, McKinney officials settled a lawsuit brought by the Inclusive Communities Project, a public housing advocacy group, which alleged the city was blocking the development of affordable residences in the more affluent and white western suburbs, where Craig Ranch lies.
On Sunday, Toon made a sign in support of the police department, posting it at the local pool and posing for reporters, and he has since frequently spoken out in support of Casebolt. “He was the first officer to arrive there and I mean it was chaos when he arrived there,” he told Megyn Kelly on Fox. “I think he kind of had to match that situation with a good amount of aggression to kind of calm the crowd down.”
After replaying his comments on Tuesday morning, the Fox & Friends hosts cut to an interview conducted with local black activist Dominique Alexander, who was highly critical of Casebolt’s tactics. The Fox News hosts then questioned Alexander’s criminal history, citing a Dallas Morning News report to say that he had “somewhat of a checkered past.”
What the Fox hosts didn’t make clear, though, was that Toon, who has publicly supported the heavy law enforcement response, also has an extensive criminal background. Records show that in 1999 he was convicted of felony criminal mischief. According to an APBNews.com article posted to a chat group in 1999, Toon was among four teens charged with breaking into a barn, beating at least 12 turkeys to death, and spray-painting the animals with his school’s colors to celebrate a football victory. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed to BuzzFeed News he spent 285 days in jail. Records show he was also arrested in 1999 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Toon’s name, criminal past, and mugshots have been circulating on social media where he has been labeled a “racist,” “bigot,” and “white thug.” He told Fox News he was worried about the safety of his family amid the protests. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls. A lot of people wanting to talk to us and based on what we’ve seen on some of the Facebook and people on Twitter…I think we have good reason to be a bit concerned,” he said.
Jennifer Stone, the mother of the white teenage girl who defended her black friends, told BuzzFeed News that emotions in the town are running high. Her daughter, Grace, was handcuffed by police for around 30 minutes after trying to give her version of events to the officers. Grace said she was the only white person detained.
“You hear people generalizing the kids who got cuffed. Almost speaking to you like they don’t realize that your daughter was one of them,” Jennifer Stone said. “And you say, ‘Well, Grace was put in handcuffs,’ and all of a sudden it gets very quiet. The thought around town was this it was a bunch of out-of-control black and minority kids that were handcuffed.”
Stone said her family had already felt out of place in McKinney and had planned to move to downtown Dallas before the drama at the pool, but some residents’ reactions to the events have continued to rub her the wrong way. “It’s people that feel like they have just a little bit of money and that makes them better. My husband has a term. He calls them ‘$30,000 millionaires.’ They act like they have this grand, luxurious life, and they’re probably just moving from credit card to credit card. We certainly like some of the people, but some of them rub you the wrong way. It’s almost as if they feel entitled.”
It was this sense of entitlement, she said, that caused the adults to react so strongly to a group of teens taking over the pool for an afternoon.
“When is it ever appropriate to call a child [racist words] because they’re in your pool?” she asked. “I don’t know how I would react and I’m 40. I can’t imagine how a 14-year-old would.”
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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