Witness to Commissioner Ford’s arrest: ‘I hear somebody yell, “Somebody help me, please!”’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A Shelby County commissioner faces jail time after Memphis police say he assaulted his girlfriend, choking her in a Church’s Chicken parking lot.

Commissioner Justin Ford was arrested Sunday night at the restaurant on Poplar in the Medical District around 8:30 p.m. Sunday night.

WREG's Bridget Chapman spoke with Christopher Howard on Monday by phone. He’s the person police say witnessed Ford assault his girlfriend.

“I really didn’t know what to think," said Howard.

Howard says he noticed Ford and the victim pull into the parking lot, arguing inside the car.

“Next thing I know, I hear somebody yell, 'Somebody help me, please!'”

He says he went to get a closer look at what was going on, noting Ford was in the passenger seat and the victim behind the wheel.

“She kept trying to jump out of the car, and as she was trying to get out, like three or four times, and every time she tried to get out, he was grabbing her in a headlock and pulling her back in the car.”

He says it then looked like Ford was violently choking her, sending him into full alert mode.

“I went over to Church’s and started banging on the door and said, 'Look, y’all need to call the police.'”

Officers came and arrested Ford, charging him with aggravated assault and imprisonment.

The police report says Ford had also hit the victim, whom he’s been dating for two years, in the face — temporarily blinding her — and pulled her hair.

“I’m just glad the good Lord worked through me and put me in the right place at the right time to help this lady, and I’m glad she’s OK," said Howard. "You never know what might’ve happened.”

Ford’s been on Shelby County Commission since 2010 and was the youngest person to be elected to the board.

“That doesn’t look very good for Shelby County; let me it just put it that way," said Howard.

We reached out to the Shelby County mayor’s office about this arrest, but he did not want to comment on the story. We also reached out to the commission chairman but have not yet heard back.