When the “victim” you fought for turns out to be the victimizer: Sherita Dixon-Cole and the painful consequences of a false report of sexual assault and police misconduct

Sherita Dixon-Cole during a traffic stop

On this past Sunday evening, after being contacted by family, friends, and attorneys for a Texas woman named Sherita Dixon-Cole, I was told that she had been sexually assaulted and violently threatened by a police officer while in custody. I was horrified. Sadly, these things happen way too often in our country. I’ve walked victims through this before — many fighting for years on end to prove the truth behind their victimization. Sherita Dixon-Cole’s allegations were genuinely awful. They were also forcefully supported by her fiancé — who was present for some of the encounter they described. Her character and integrity were defended to me by those who knew her well. I probed.

Human beings and the decisions they sometimes make are a mystery though.

Earlier today I was able to review nearly two hours of body camera footage provided by the police department. The footage appears to be authentic and trustworthy. At no time does it show any of the horrible allegations originally made by Sherita Dixon-Cole. The officer never threatens her or her fiancé as she described. No sexual assault of any kind takes place. From all indications the officer, Daniel Hubbard, was very professional and patient throughout the ordeal. The whole thing was rather routine and painfully normal.

The arrest, based on the video, is arguably unwarranted, but that’s rather irrelevant here. The officer administered a field sobriety test and she passed every physical requirement and request over the course of twenty straight minutes of being examined for it. She also passed the breathalyzer test twice — breathing under the legal limit two different times, according to the police report. The officer then communicated to Sherita and her fiancé, who arrived on the scene later, that the arrest was “a courtesy.” That is his prerogative if he still deemed that she was under the influence or was an unsafe driver. That’s how this case should’ve been discussed. That appears to be the most that went wrong here in terms of the actual encounter with the officer.

What’s just so baffling is that Sherita was calm and respectful the entire time. Her fiancé was calm and respectful. The officer was calm and respectful. From start to finish Sherita Dixon-Cole was in the custody of the officer for about an hour. It was normal and without incident. Nobody even raised their voices. I’ve watched the whole hour they were together, from start to finish, three different times now. None of the criminal allegations that Sherita Dixon-Cole communicated very clearly to her family, friends, and attorneys ever took place on this video. Not one. Not the threats. Not the sexual assaults. None of it. It is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard of.

To this very moment, Sherita Dixon-Cole still insists everything that she said happened…actually happened. She claims the body camera footage must’ve been edited to remove the worst parts. This is not unthinkable. I have seen it happen before, but it absolutely does not appear to happen here. Outside of personal information being blurred out, the video appears to be in its original form. I viewed it with an editing expert. They agree. Nothing horrible took place there. Nothing criminal has been edited out of this video. Furthermore, Sherita Dixon Cole’s behavior and demeanor throughout the video, which is calm, cool, and collected at all times, from start to finish, just does not support her claims of being repeatedly sexually assaulted and threatened.

I can’t even begin to make sense of why someone would concoct such an awful story — particularly in light of the reality that both police brutality and sexual assaults are a very real crisis in this nation. It does a tremendous disservice to actual victims when something horrible like this is fabricated. It provides an unfair spotlight to a good cop and undeserved cover for the bad ones who will try to use an incident like this as false proof of their innocence.

Sherita Dixon-Cole has no arrest record. She has no known mental health problems. She is an experienced, respected, college educated professional with undergraduate and graduate degrees in human resources. She is known and trusted by people I know and trust. I don’t know why she did this, and I don’t know if we will ever know why, but in this case she played everybody — including it appears — her fiancé and extended family. I learned many years ago that attempting to find a logical explanation for truly illogical behavior is a waste of time. I’ve considered every possible angle here — and every time I end up in the same place — it makes no sense why someone would throw their life away — and damage someone else’s — like she has done.

I trusted a very reliable source in this case that I have known for many years. But even in spite of trusting that source, I poked and prodded for holes and was repeatedly assured that Sherita Dixon-Cole has never and would never fake something like this. She proved them all wrong. In most sexual assault cases, all you have is someone’s word and every person connected to Sherita Dixon-Cole believed her words in this case. I regret that I did. Hindsight is 20/20.

Every single day I receive hundreds of requests to assist people who’ve been truly victimized in one way or another. I can count on one hand the times I’ve been lied to. It takes a truly emotionally disturbed person to risk ruining their own life to fabricate a crime. Each time it has happened to me, it ripped my heart out, and caused me to genuinely pause to wonder if I could still get out there and fight for victims another day after being lied to. Each time I have — because real people are still being hurt in the worst ways by America’s justice system — and those people deserve and need us fighting tooth and nail for them.

Each year in the United States, tens of thousands of people are assaulted, abused, beaten, falsely arrested, and threatened by American police. 2018 is actually on pace to be the deadliest year ever measured for police brutality in this country.

But Sherita Dixon-Cole is not one of those victims. She victimized us. She victimized the man she falsely accused and she victimized those who stood up for her — believing that she had experienced the worst crimes. Thankfully, she does not represent anyone but herself. She does not represent actual victims of sex crimes. She does not represent actual victims of police brutality. And she does not represent black women or black people. An awful tendency exists in this country to hold all people of color responsible for the transgressions of one person in that group. That’s racism and it must be rejected here. We reject what Sherita Dixon-Cole has done here. It’s awful.

I lead and live with my heart on my sleeve. I don’t know any other way. As I type this, I am working directly with dozens of families across the country who’ve actually experienced police brutality and various miscarriages of justice. I will continue fighting for them like their lives, and all of our lives, depend on it. They deserve that. This woman cannot be allowed to ruin that for other victims.

Lastly, from an advocacy perspective, this horrible case only proves that body cameras should indeed be required of all police. They don’t just provide victims the necessary proof of brutality or misconduct, they can also provide police officers the proof of false allegations. We’re nowhere near the point of having the right policies and technology in place on this issue, but we must push forward nonetheless.

This stings for all of us.

Many good people fought for this person, a complete stranger to us, out of the goodness of our heart. We were right to fight — the system requires us to fight for every ounce of justice we ever get — but someone truly abused us in this circumstance. I’m still so genuinely baffled.

Husband, Father, Journalist, Activist.