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20-year Army veteran arrested for going AWOL, sits in North Texas jail awaiting trial

December 9, 2022

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s a story of a violent police raid on a North Texas home to arrest an Army soldier for going AWOL.

But the soldier at the center of it is a decorated war veteran who says her arrest is the result of retaliation and race.

An armed team of U.S. Marshals and Grand Prairie police officers stormed a home with guns drawn and pointed – children scream in panic while authorities searched for a woman you might think committed a violent felony.

But that woman, Sergeant First Class Shantaya Williams, has a clean record according to her attorney.

In fact, she’s a decorated 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army and Army Reserve, who was nursing her one-year-old at the time.

“My door was kicked literally off the frame,” Williams tells CBS 11 from the Kaufman County Jail, that her arrest for desertion was a shameful stunt that those responsible should be held accountable for. “I don’t think furious is a strong enough word…I was hunted down like a dog.”

Williams, a 44-year-old mother of four, entered the Army in 1997.

“I’ve had an honorable career, I haven’t had any misconducts, I have Army good conduct medals that we receive on a regular basis,” Williams said.

Williams is also an Iraqi War veteran, now charged with going AWOL because a human resources technician refused a transfer to a similar role in Virginia.

Williams says she thought a letter from a doctor treating her for PTSD, along with her new baby and child custody issues, were enough to appeal the transfer and stay in her Grand Prairie home.

“It wasn’t necessarily not making the move, it was can we make the move at a later date,” she said.

Her attorney, a former Fort Hood Army prosecutor, says he’s never seen anything like what happened to Williams last Wednesday when she was arrested at gunpoint.

“Completely unnecessary, that is the kind of behavior reserved for fugitive murderers, cop killers, hardened criminals,” Williams’ attorney, Sean Timmons said.

Timmons says Williams had gone through proper channels to avoid a transfer.

He believes her race and gender drove the harsh action because desertion usually only applies to combat duty.

“It’s almost always handled administratively,” he said. “They do prosecute if somebody misses movement. If they miss a ship or a plane to a combat zone. I have several clients who, without breaking client privilege, are ethnic groups white male or Hispanic who don’t get this kind of treatment.”

Williams now faces a possible sentence of five years confinement and dishonorable discharge for supposedly running away from a job that she says she could have legally walked away from because of her years of service.

“I could’ve got off the program and literally retired and moved on with my life,” she said.

The U.S. Army sent CBS 11 the following statement:

“The Army Reserve is committed to the fair treatment of all Soldiers and Civilians. Allegations of misconduct are taken seriously and reviewed under applicable, controlling regulations. Soldiers are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Soldiers are afforded due process to present whatever matters they deem appropriate and to ensure all evidence is considered by the applicable decision authority. However, the Privacy Act precludes the Army Reserve from discussing a specific Soldier’s case in further detail.”

Williams’ husband Jackie is caring for their one-year-old and three other kids while his wife lingers in a jail cell for a week with still no court hearing set.

“I think about it every day,” she said. “I think about going to prison every day.”

Williams attorney and friends have reached out to local and state elected leaders for help but say they have yet to receive a response.

“It should outrage every American,” Timmons said. “This is not a partisan issue. It’s not a ideological issue.”

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