A week after Dallas police filed a felony assault charge against a Deep Ellum bartender accused of violently beating a woman, she now faces a felony charge in the case.
L'Daijohnique Lee, 24, is wanted on a charge of criminal mischief in last month's confrontation with bartender Austin Shuffield. Police say Lee admitted smashing a window in his pickup after the assault.
“It’s not the intention of the Dallas Police Department to pick one side or another,” Deputy Chief Thomas Castro said in an afternoon news conference. "[We] have to make sure that all of our citizens have been heard and that we take all of their complaints seriously."
Lee has yet to be arrested in the case, Castro said.
The warrant caught Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot by surprise, prompting a written a statement from his office Tuesday evening.
"The District Attorney had no prior knowledge that an arrest warrant was issued," the statement said. "When and if charges reach the District Attorney's Office, we will take appropriate action."
The DA's office could present the charge to a grand jury or drop the case against Lee entirely.
Dallas clergy leaders who spoke in support of Lee after the assault were curious to see how the case would be handled once in the DA's hands, and one expressed hope the case would be dismissed.
The Rev. Michael Waters of Agape/Joy Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Churches, said Tuesday's news only deepens the "severe mistrust" that grew between the black community and the Dallas Police Department after the September shooting death of Botham Jean by former Dallas officer Amber Guyger.
"I am convinced that black life does not matter to the city of Dallas," he said.
Shuffield's initial arrest on misdemeanor charges set off days of protest, and a demonstration is planned Wednesday morning at Dallas City Hall after the felony warrant was issued for Lee.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who represents the woman, expressed his outrage at the latest charge on Twitter, saying, "DPD just found a way to charge HER with a felony. #DaiLee."
Lee told investigators that she was dropping her friend off at Deep Ellum Hostel when Shuffield, 30, asked her to move her car and began recording her vehicle and license plates.
Lee told him to get back and grabbed her phone to call police, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
A cellphone video of the confrontation shows Lee hit Shuffield once after he slapped the phone from her hand and kicked it away from her.
That's when Shuffield pummeled Lee in the face, throwing at least five punches, the video shows.
After that, Lee threw a jump box, a device used to charge a car battery, through the back windshield of Shuffield's truck, according to the affidavit. That part of the confrontation wasn't caught on the video that went viral online.
“In this case, based on her own admission," Castro said, "it was pretty clear that she committed that offense.”
Police say it took time to file the charge against Lee because investigators were waiting to determine the extent of the damage to Shuffield's pickup. This week, he submitted an estimate just over $3,000, and detectives confirmed it Monday, police said.
Criminal mischief is often a misdemeanor, but when the damage total exceeds $2,500, it becomes a state jail felony, Castro said.
Merritt, the woman's attorney, questioned the logic of the charge against his client.
"Victims of savage assaults cannot logically be held responsible for damage done to their assailants property during or immediately after their attack," he said Tuesday. "Of course context matters and the decision to charge is a clear abuse of discretion."
Police originally arrested Shuffield on misdemeanor charges of assault, public intoxication and interference with an emergency call. He was quickly fired from his job at High and Tight barbershop, near where the confrontation happened.
Shuffield has declined to comment on his arrest, and phone numbers listed for him have been disconnected.
After days of public outcry, police upgraded the assault charge to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a felony, and added a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully carrying a weapon, after video showed him holding a handgun during the fight.
Police seized a knife and a .45-caliber Glock from his pickup, a gun that authorities say he was not licensed to carry.
Shuffield turned himself in on the weapon charge and was quickly released from jail a second time.
The new assault charge has been referred to a grand jury, which will determine whether he's indicted on the more serious charge.
Last week, clergy leaders said they were grateful to see additional charges levied against Shuffield. But on Tuesday, the Rev. Kamilah Hall Sharp of The Gathering said she was “very upset and very disappointed” to learn of the felony charge Lee.
“It’s very heartbreaking that she will now be pulled through this to be a victim and now have to go through charges of a felony,” said Hall Sharp, who supported Lee at a rally after the assault.
Activists and community leaders had to fight for Shuffield to face the appropriate charges, Hall Sharp said, but “apparently, it’s very easy to get charges against a black woman who is a victim.”
Black clergy leaders promised Lee that they’d stand by her side throughout the aftermath of the assault, but they expected to support her as a victim, not a defendant, Hall Sharp said. They reached out to her again Tuesday, letting her know she still has their support.
“We wanted her to know that the faith community is still standing by her and that we don’t believe that this is the correct thing to be done to a victim of crime,” Hall Sharp said.
Waters said he's worried that crime victims whose attacks aren't caught on camera could face even greater obstacles than Lee has.
"If an attack caught on video has come up against all of these difficulties," Waters said, "imagine what is experienced by those who face similar challenges without the benefit of having their attack recorded?"
Staff writers Dana Branham and Jennifer Emily contributed to this report.