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Texas Police Brutality and Police Misconduct
1/26/2006 - An El Paso police officer is already out on bail, after being arrested Tuesday for allegedly molesting a 13-year old girl.
The incident happened last month when officer Carlos Campos was called out to investigate a burglary at a trailer home in the lower valley.
According to the affidavit, Campos made a 13 year old girl go inside a trailer with him and he then allegedly fondled her breasts and her buttocks.
Chief Wiles told KFOX that the girl went through extensive interviews and he believes her story is credible.
But, Campos's lawyer says that the girl was involved with the burglary and believes the story is made up.
If Campos is found
guilty of indecency with a child, he could face 2 to 20 years in prison.
01/24/2006 - Finger pointing has begun after a scuffle between an officer and a Dallas Roller Derby League skater ended with the woman on the ground with a bloody face Saturday night.
Michelle Metzinger, who skates for Assassination City, was skating down Elm Street when police Officer Ceaphus Gordon stopped her in front of Elm Street Tattoo, which was where the differences in story began.
"I have bruises and scratches all over me," Metzinger said. "You have no idea how rough he was on me." However, police said Metzinger tried to gouge the officer's right eye in the fight. But some witnesses also had a different opinion from the officer's account of what occurred that night.
"He just jumps on her and puts his knee on the back of her head with her face in the ground like so brutally," said Oliver Peck, tattoo artist. "It was ridiculous, and instantly blood was everywhere and she's crying bloody murder like helplessly."
Peck said he saw the police officer give Metzinger a ticket for jaywalking and then jumped on her twice when she tried to pull away.
"It was just a textbook example of unnecessary excessive force.
Derek Conway, who is also known as D.C. and works as a bartender, said he also witnessed the struggle between the two and called the incident "police brutality."
"[It was] completely over the top," Conway said. "It looked like a street mugging. It looked like a fight. He was mugging her, that's what it looked like."
Metzinger was treated for her injuries and arrested for assault of a peace officer.
Officer Gordon was treated as well for scratches on his face and bruises on his shins after he said Metzinger kicked him with her skates.
Metzinger has hired a lawyer to fight back and police said they will consider an internal investigation.
01/24/2006 - TEXAS
CITY — A former Texas City police officer who recently
been arrested by his former colleagues on charges he falsely filled out
forms to obtain federal funds intended for victims of Hurricane Rita.
01/24/2006 - AMARILLO, TX - The sheriff of Potter County is accused of shoving his wife of 18 years while trying to get into their house -- just two hours after he filed for divorce.
Amarillo police say Beverly Joan Shumate was reportedly changing locks on the couple's home Thursday when her estranged husband arrived.
Police Sergeant Randy TenBrink says Sheriff Michael Shumate then allegedly grabbed and shoved the woman.
A judge earlier approved a temporary restraining order for Michael Shumate against his wife.
Officers who responded observed a scratch under Beverly Shumate's left eye and a red mark around her arm. No medical treatment was necessary.
Potter County officials didn't immediately return calls for comment. A phone number for the Shumate home wasn't available.
Michael Shumate, who wasn't at the home when officers arrived, has been sheriff since 2001.
No charges were immediately filed.
01/24/2006 - An 11-year Dallas police veteran with a history of disciplinary problems was arrested after Carrollton police said he assaulted his wife at the couple’s home.
Officer Ransom Funches, 37, who patrols northwest Dallas, was arrested at about 3 a.m. Monday on a Class C misdemeanor family violence assault charge.
Carrollton police said that his wife called 911, saying that he hit her. Officers said she had a minor injury, and arrested Officer Funches.
He was released on Tuesday, and Dallas police placed him on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Earlier this year, Officer Funches was suspended for five days for being discourteous to a police employee. He has also been cited for sleeping on duty, insubordination, interfering with process, filing a false report or citation, profane language and violating off duty work policy.
He quit the department in 1999 and was listed as ineligible for rehire because of his disciplinary history. However, former police chief Terrell Bolton rehired him in 2001.
01/24/2006 - A
former Danbury police officer has been charged with sexual assault of a
child and arrested in Colorado, where he also faces charges, Brazoria
County District Attorney Jeri Yenne said.
01/24/2006 - The state attorney general's office is suing an East Texas
sheriff for not releasing investigative files relating to a police
officer's fatal shooting of a hit-and-run suspect.
01/23/2006 - Officer Vernon Ray Allison Jr., 33, was charged with sexual assault by a public servant and official oppression. He allegedly tried to force a woman to have sexual relations with him after stopping her for a traffic violation around 2:30 a.m. Friday, according to Patton Village Police Chief Joe Schultea. Sheriff's deputies took the officer into custody when they arrived at the scene of the alleged crime while it was in progress. He was booked into the county jail late Friday afternoon.
Schultea said he could not comment on how the deputies knew where officer Allison and the complainant were or what was allegedly happening.
The initial traffic stop occurred near a ballpark on Tram Road off of FM 2090. Schultea said the complainant, a white female, stated Allison suggested going from there to a more remote location. The alleged incident took place in Splendora on an unnamed road off of First Street that leads to a cell phone tower. The locals call it Tower Road, Schultea said.
said he is handling strictly the administrative portion of the
"When I got the call, I thought one of my officers was killed - that's when you get calls at that hour from a Texas Ranger," he said. "He (Pullen) said that would be easier than what he had to tell me."
Based on Pullen's information, Schultea suspended Allison without pay. At the chief's request, the Patton Village City Council will discuss and vote on termination of Allison's employment with the Police Department Tuesday.
"I don't tolerate that," said Schultea, who retired from the Harris County Sheriff's Office in 1999 before accepting the Patton Village police chief position in January 2002.
"I have a very good staff and I'm just sick that one slipped through the cracks. I want to apologize to the public and to thank the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office for responding so quickly and professionally to this incident."
The chief said integrity was very important to him and he was extremely disappointed that one of his officers would put himself in such a situation.
"There are 1,700 to 1,800 people who depend on us to do our jobs right," he said. "The whole department is upset over this."
He said the officers conducting the investigation had his full support and he would give them whatever they needed.
Allison had been a full-time employee with the department for two years after starting as an unpaid reserve deputy. Like all officers, he had an extensive background check before he was hired. Schultea said there were no prior complaints of a sexual nature against Allison.
allegation is serious," he said. "Police officers are supposed to put
criminals in jail."
"I took him to the grand jury myself," he said. "The officer had some extreme anger management issues."
pleaded guilty to official oppression in August and received one-year
probation and deferred adjudication. He also had to pay a $200 fine and
$333 in court costs.
"If the evidence in this case points toward proving the information we've received, I don't have a problem locking the (cell) door myself," he said.
Sexual assault by a public servant is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Official oppression is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Schultea said a supervisor checked on Allison prior to the incident and was told everything was OK. He described the night as slow, meaning there were few stops or calls.
The department had 26 officers on its roster until Friday. Fourteen, including Allison, were full-time employees, and the rest were reserves. The officers have a required monthly meeting that includes a two-hour training session involving handling various situations and updates in the legal system.
"I just don't want this incident to take away from all the hard work by the other officers," Schultea said.
He had not spoken with Allison since the incident and said he had no immediate plans to do so.
01/21/2006 - A Bryan police officer has appealed the department's decision to place him on indefinite suspension after supervisors determined he used excessive force when he drew his gun on a motorist.
Officer Shane Spry had worked for the department less than two years at the time of the incident. He reportedly pointed his gun at Nara Shae Lockett to prevent her from driving through a crime scene in January 2005, according to the notice of indefinite suspension issued by Chief Mike Strope.
The chief wrote that officer Spry used excessive force, a violation of police department policy. The officer also was found to have been insubordinate and untruthful - also policy violations - throughout the internal investigation that followed.
Spry was suspended indefinitely last April, about three months after Lockett filed a formal complaint against him. He appealed the suspension this week to an independent arbitrator, who now is reviewing the case. A ruling is expected in the summer.
"We strongly dispute the conclusions reached by the chief," John Cullar, the Waco-based attorney representing Spry, said Friday. "We believe that the evidence as it was presented [during the two-day arbitration hearing] suggests that there is reason to dispute what the chief said in the letter."
Lockett was trying to follow an ambulance carrying her brother Harvey Allen - who had been fatally shot - when Spry approached the front of her car with his gun drawn, according to the suspension notice. No other officers at the scene drew their service weapons, the notice states.
Spry contends that he did not point his weapon at Lockett; rather, he pointed it at the hood of her car, his attorney said Friday. He is asking the arbitrator to reinstate him with full back pay and benefits.
According to the suspension notice, Spry first told his supervisors that he drew his weapon because he was in fear of being run over. Police administrators said he later told them he planned to move out of the vehicle's path and never intended to fire his weapon.
The notice states that Spry also failed to file a "use of force" report, a form the department's officers are required to complete if they pull their weapon and aim it at someone. Spry did not file such a report, saying he had been told by training officers that he only needed to do so if he pointed his weapon directly at a person.
The suspension notice also states that Spry did not follow supervisors' orders throughout the investigation and failed a related polygraph test.
The chief said he thought a "lengthy suspension" likely would be the most appropriate way to deal with the excessive force and insubordination violations. But that same punishment could not apply to the truthfulness violation, he said.
"Knowingly making a false statement reflects a character and integrity flaw in former Officer Spry's performance. We, as a department and organization that relies upon trust of the community, cannot allow an employee to continue that cannot be trusted - even by his own department," Strope said. "Indefinite suspension was the only option that I had."
The indefinite suspension sends a message to both the police department and the community that integrity violations won't be tolerated, the chief said.
But Cullar and Spry dispute the chief's conclusions. Multiple eyewitnesses recalled the night in question differently, Cullar said Friday, referring to testimony given during the two-day hearing.
One of the officers who insisted that Spry was pointing the gun directly at Lockett was standing farthest from the car, Cullar said. And Lockett testified that it was an officer standing to her left who pointed a gun toward her, not Spry, who was standing in front of the car, Cullar said.
Lockett also testified that she thought Spry had raised a flashlight and not a gun, he said.
"This is a situation where I don't doubt that any of those people truly believe what they are saying - it's just what they saw and what really happened are two different things. Their perception is truth to them," Cullar said. "[Spry] showed the weapon in order to require her to comply with the demand to stop the car. He never intended to fire the weapon. It was not going to be fired. It was simply displayed in order to intimidate her into stopping the car."
01/20/2006 - A former Dallas police officer who was fired after being accused of groping a female motorist during a traffic stop was found not guilty of the charge on Thursday.
The motorist, an employee at a Dallas topless club, charged that 5-year department veteran Jermaine Thompson threatened to take her to jail unless she showed him her breasts during a Sept. 2004 traffic stop in far northeast Dallas.
The woman told police that Mr. Thompson touched her breasts after she lifted her shirt. Investigators verified that the officer's car was where the woman said it was by reviewing the car's electronic tracking system data.
The woman also said Mr. Thompson later showed up at the club where she worked, tried to get in free and groped her again.
Mr. Thompson was charged with improper sexual activity with a person in custody and faced up to two years in a state jail. He waived his right to a jury trial and was found not guilty by District Judge Keith Dean.
Mr. Thompson's attorney, Tom Pappas, argued that the woman's trial testimony differed from statements she originally made to investigators and that details of the police investigation did not corroborate her account.
Mr. Thompson was fired in December after his Sept. 2005 indictment. Mr. Pappas said the officer will not work to get his job back.
01/08/2006 - The three analysts suspended because of the latest findings in the Houston crime-lab investigation have been targeted for discipline previously or cited for errors in their work, but escaped serious punishment, the Houston Chronicle found in reviewing personnel records.
Houston Police Department supervisors suspended Mary Childs-Henry, Joseph Chu and Raynard Cockrell after an independent team of experts found they had failed to report evidence that could have helped defendants and that they made errors in DNA and serology tests.
HPD had attempted to discipline the three longtime crime-lab employees for mistakes that ranged from bungling evidence in a capital murder case to failing to cooperate with internal investigations of the crime-lab debacle. Each time, the analysts received reduced punishment after appealing to a review panel.
In fact, most other crime-lab employees who have appealed disciplinary action in the three years since HPD's forensic work first came under scrutiny also have succeeded — even Christy Kim, the analyst fired for her shoddy work in the wrongful rape conviction of Josiah Sutton. They largely have argued that the crime lab's deficiencies were systemic and individual analysts did not have the power to correct them.
The difficulty in firing Kim, who won reinstatement and then retired, angered Mayor Bill White and Police Chief Harold Hurtt. Both expressed hope last week that any future discipline of crime-lab employees will not be overturned.
"In public safety, part of the standard for performance should be based on the credibility of the people involved," White said. "And for certain functions, there should not be any doubts. I do not want a guilty person to escape the judgment of a jury because of some attack by a skillful criminal defense attorney on the records of any individual at the crime lab."
The panel that heard analysts' appeals, the three-member city Civil Service Commission, is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. White's predecessor, Mayor Lee Brown, appointed the members who have heard all of the crime-lab cases to date.
White recently made a new appointment, however, and expects soon to make a second. He said that though he supports the civil service system, it should not stand in the way of HPD's effort to regain public confidence.
The ongoing investigations into the work of Childs-Henry, Chu and Cockrell, who were suspended last month in anticipation of the latest crime-lab investigators' report, may once again test whether HPD can uphold discipline against lab employees.
Report cites 'major issues'
The report, released last week, cited "major issues" in the performance of DNA and serology tests. Serology, the analysis of body fluids, was a precursor to DNA testing.
After he was briefed on the investigators' findings, Hurtt moved to suspend the analysts with pay and opened an internal probe into whether they should be disciplined.
Cockrell and Chu declined to comment to the Chronicle. Phone calls to Childs-Henry were not returned.
According to the team of experts reviewing cases for independent investigator Michael Bromwich, Childs-Henry reported that DNA tests in the 1995 sexual assault case against Garland Davis were inconclusive when, in fact, they excluded him as a contributor to samples of evidence from the crime scene.
Childs-Henry, who has worked in the lab for 13 years, performed a highly discriminating DNA analysis on two evidence samples collected with a rape kit and one from the victim's clothes, the investigators reported. She obtained strong results indicating the presence of a male — but not Davis — on all three samples, the experts said.
Rather than report those findings, however, Childs-Henry said she obtained no results, the investigators said.
In the same case, Chu used a less-discriminating DNA test and obtained results that may have included Davis as a suspect, investigators said. Those results were reported as definitively including him, according to the report, with no mention of the other, more discriminating and exculpatory findings.
Davis pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Experts also said that Chu overstated the strength of his test results in a capital murder case and a sexual assault case. In addition, they reported that Cockrell, who joined the lab in 1995, never reported potentially exculpatory DNA test results from a murder that was cited in the penalty phase of Franklin Alix's capital murder trial.
Results left out of report
Cockrell's analyses did not detect Alix's DNA on samples from the crime, but those results were not included in the final report, which Cockrell did not write. Alix is awaiting execution.
Though Bromwich's team named these three and other analysts in its report, he said last week that he did not recommend the suspensions.
"As our reports make clear, the problems in serology and DNA are more properly characterized as systemic breakdowns in training, supervision and oversight rather than isolated acts of individual misconduct," he said. "Specifically, we have not found any intentional misconduct on the part of the three suspended employees."
The instances highlighted in Bromwich's latest report are not the first time Childs-Henry, Chu or Cockrell have been cited.
Childs-Henry played a key role in the 1996 case of Lynn Jones, who sat in the Harris County Jail for nine months while the crime lab failed to perform DNA tests on a sample that eventually cleared him, according to depositions in a lawsuit and an internal HPD memo.
Jones, accused of raping a 14-year-old girl, was held while the crime lab was supposed to be processing evidence from his case. Childs-Henry had samples for more than three months before she analyzed them and was unable to obtain results when she did, according to a memo by a crime-lab supervisor.
Jones was released after another analyst performed tests that eliminated him as a suspect, but his ordeal prompted then-Police Chief Sam Nuchia to order an audit.
More recently, the Police Department attempted to suspend Childs-Henry for three days in 2004 because she improperly packaged evidence from a rape kit and "possibly cross-contaminated evidence," according to the letter notifying her of the suspension. After she appealed, maintaining that she was following lab protocols, the Civil Service Commission reduced her suspension to a written reprimand.
Chu, a 16-year crime-lab veteran, faced a 14-day suspension in 2003 for a variety of errors, such as botched statistical calculations, in four cases including two capital murders. After appealing, he received a written reprimand, according to civil service records.
Cockrell fought a two-day suspension for not cooperating with internal affairs investigators' inquiry about the lab's problems and received no disciplinary action.
In a letter after the meeting, the analysts described the division as a "total disaster."
Bradford has said he never received the letter.
Fred Keys, the attorney for Chu and his colleague, Kim, called the crime lab's woes systemic and that top Police Department officials, not lower-ranking analysts, should be held accountable.
At the time of their hearings, he said, "You can delegate authority but not responsibility."
12/30/2005 - When Eric Hammock died last April 3, Fort Worth police said the Midland architect, chased by an off-duty officer after a minor trespassing incident, had been hit with a Taser one or more times. In July, police acknowledged that he had been shocked perhaps a half-dozen times. By November, police sources were informally admitting that he’d been jolted with the laser weapon 17 times.
Now, however, information released to Fort Worth Weekly under the state open records law shows that the 43-year-old motorist was shot 25 times with the 50,000-volt weapons — shocks that in some cases lasted as long as 11 seconds at a time, for a total of more than two minutes in which electricity was being coursed through his body.
What’s more, the officer who started the chase — and did most of the tasering — acknowledged in the records that, before he started tasering Hammock, the 6’ 1’’ overweight architect’s most aggressive move, when Hammock was already leaning over and sweating and breathing heavily, was to jerk his arm away from the officer’s grasp and put it back on his knee while he tried to catch his breath. An autopsy would later show he had taken cocaine that evening.
“I was just trying to get him arrested,” the officer told investigators, in explanation of his actions.
After Hammock was cuffed and in obvious respiratory distress, records show, it was several more minutes before an ambulance was called, and then another 15 minutes before Hammock was loaded into the ambulance to be taken to JPS Hospital.
Fort Worth police did not respond to the Weekly’s requests for comments on the report. Nor did the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office, which ruled Hammock’s death the result of an accidental cocaine overdose.
TASER International, which manufactures the Taser weapons, also failed to return calls seeking comment. But since Hammock’s death — one in a list of more than 150 deaths of persons shortly after being tasered — the company has changed its claims about the laser weapon. The company, which is being sued by Hammock’s widow Kathi, no longer call them “non-lethal” but now refers to Tasers as “less lethal” weapons. And TASER has added a warning to its web page, noting that prolonged or repeated use of the weapon on a person may “contribute to ... medical risk” and, in combination with other factors, “may result in serious injury or death.”
For Kathi Hammock, the new report just intensified feelings of having had her husband stolen from her. “I just want everybody to know that what was done to my husband was wrong,” she said. “And I don’t want it happening to anybody else. Me and my daughter are spending our first Christmas without him. They don’t realize what they took from me.”
Hammock is one of three people who died in an eight-month period after being hit with Tasers by Fort Worth police. In all three cases, autopsies showed the victims had taken illegal drugs — part of a marked pattern across the country in which deaths have closely followed when persons on drugs were hit by Tasers. In none of the Fort Worth cases did the deceased person have a weapon, although all three had refused to follow officers’ commands or had resisted arrest. None was engaged in violent crime before officers began attempting to make the arrest.
Hammock was on his way home to Midland from Louisiana on the night of April 3, when he took the Riverside Drive exit off I-30 in Fort Worth and pulled through the open gates of a Waste Management facility parking lot where Fort Worth Police Officer C.P. Birley was moonlighting as a guard. Birley, sitting in his truck, waved at Hammock to stop him from entering the private property. Whether or not he saw the officer, Hammock left almost immediately. He drove around a building and reappeared in a few seconds. As Hammock headed back out, Birley, in uniform and out of his vehicle, waved to him to stop, but the architect ignored him and headed south on Riverside Drive.
Birley followed him and called for backup, because Hammock had trespassed and then failed to follow his orders to stop. In the next few minutes, as the slow chase wound through a neighborhood, Birley said Hammock committed no traffic violations. But when the architect wound up at a dead end, he got out of his car and again refused Birley’s order to stop, instead walking, then running away, down a railroad track.
Birley finally caught up with Hammock a couple of blocks later. Police records recount how the officer found an out-of-shape Hammock leaning forward, his hands on his knees, sweating, and breathing heavily. Birley tried to grab hold of Hammock’s right arm, but he jerked it away.
What followed were several minutes in which Hammock, after a warning, was tasered repeatedly. At one point he dropped to his knees, but then “started swinging his arms” at the officer, got up, was tasered again, got up again and started running, and then, when he grabbed a tree and wouldn’t let go, was stunned several more times. Again he got up and walked away and got tasered again. He was stunned several more times as he lay on the ground because he wouldn’t unclench his arms from beneath his chest so that he could be handcuffed.
Birley said he remembered shooting Hammock with the laser weapon “five or six” times, but the computer chip in his weapon told a different story. It recorded Birley’s weapon as having been discharged 20 times that night, including 11 times in the first two minutes, for five to 11 seconds at a time.
Asked if the repeated shocks had any effect on Hammock, Birley responded, “It had enough effect ... he dropped to his knees. But when he dropped to his knees, he started swinging his arms at me. And that’s when I stepped back, because I didn’t want to get hit, and I put a cartridge on, and I shot him with the cartridge.”
Birley said Hammock only swung at him when the architect was on his knees, and once more when he was on his feet. “[T]o be honest with you, I can’t really say I was in fear for my life,” he said. “I was just trying to get him arrested.”
Asked whether Hammock ever made a move to his pockets as if to get a weapon, or whether Birley thought he might have a weapon, he said: “No. No.”
Eventually, after the repeated shocks, Birley managed to drag Hammock into a clearing, as other officers arrived on the scene. But Hammock, on his stomach, kept his arms beneath him. So Birley stunned him three more times. Then Officer Rachel Sevasin hit him five times with her weapon. In a 39-second period, Hammock was tasered for 28 seconds. At the end of it, he was cuffed.
At that point, Birley said in the report, “there was no response in his eyes.” Sevasin noted that the architect “had become pale.” Less than an hour later, after he had stopped breathing at the scene and received CPR, he was declared dead.
By Birley’s own admission, Hammock’s only crimes were momentarily trespassing (though he left when told to) on the Waste Management lot, then refusing to be arrested. In his tussles with Hammock, Birley received only a scratch on the leg, which he said probably came from foliage while grabbing Hammock in the trees. Birley was cleared of any wrongdoing by both a grand jury and the police department’s internal discipline process. Sevasin, who stunned Hammock five times while he lay on the ground face down, has also been cleared.
Edward Jackson, spokesman for Amnesty International, which has done extensive research on Taser use and abuse, said his organization understands that, “any time a person doesn’t comply with direct orders given by the police it creates a situation in which the police could be in danger. And they’ve got a right to respond on an equal level to the danger posed to them.
“On the other hand, in a situation where an unarmed suspect is not on the attack, a situation in which the suspect is simply not complying quickly enough with an order, well, rational people have to question the logic of shocking someone like that 25 times.”
12/31/2005 - A Travis County grand jury indicted two Austin police officers and a former officer Friday, accusing them of beating a handcuffed suspect and using their Taser stun guns on him after a minor traffic accident in September.
Officer Joel Follmer, officer Christopher Gray and officer William Heilman punched 25-year-old Ramon Hernandez multiple times on the legs and back and shocked him at least once after he was facedown and in handcuffs, police officials said.
Hernandez, a quality-control employee for a tech company, suffered a large gash above his eye, several bruises on his body and several weeks of back pain, said his lawyer, Amber Vazquez Bode.
"He was unrecognizable," she said.
Follmer, who joined the force in July, and Gray, a six-year veteran who was training the rookie, have been suspended without pay. Heilman, who had been with the department for four years and was involved in an on-duty shooting earlier this year, resigned Dec. 2. Each faces up to a year in jail if convicted of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.
Prosecutors said other charges are possible but declined to elaborate.
"I'm very disappointed we would have a situation like this happen," Assistant Police Chief Robert Dahlstrom said Friday. "I'm sad for the officers, sad for the department and sad for the victim."
Terry Keel, an attorney and state representative from Austin who is representing Follmer, Gray and Heilman, said he hopes for a speedy trial and expects all three to be exonerated.
"The indictments of these officers represent a terrible injustice," he said. "These officers acted honorably and with great courage. . . . They fought for their lives to subdue a criminal suspect."
Department leaders said the indictments came after a routine review of the Sept. 21 incident in the 8200 block of Burnet Road in North Austin. Part of the incident was recorded by patrol car cameras.
The review led supervisors to think the officers might have violated department policy and the law, so they sent the information to the Travis County district attorney's office. They also began an internal affairs investigation, which is not complete.
Authorities have declined to release copies of the videos, citing the investigation.
According to an affidavit, which is based on the officers' statements, Hernandez left an accident scene, and Heilman found him minutes later about a block away on Buell Avenue, kneeling with his head on the ground. The affidavit said Hernandez refused to stand up, and a struggle ensued. Heilman said Hernandez hit him several times and tried to take his gun.
Dahlstrom said Heilman called for backup and that Follmer and Gray, who were riding in the same patrol car, were the first to arrive.
Dahlstrom said the officers eventually handcuffed Hernandez and placed him facedown on the ground. At this point, they had moved in range of the patrol car camera.
Dahlstrom said Gray and Follmer punched Hernandez several times — Gray hit him in the back, and Follmer struck his legs — and that Heilman shocked Hernandez with his Taser. Gray also used his Taser during the incident, but Dahlstrom said he did not know whether Hernandez was in handcuffs at that point.
Department policy prohibits officers from shocking handcuffed suspects.
Police took Hernandez to Brackenridge Hospital and later to the Travis County Jail, where they charged him with attempting to take a police officer's weapon and assault on a public servant — both felonies — and two misdemeanor charges of failure to stop and render aid and evading detention.
The grand jury declined Friday to indict Hernandez on the felony charges. The misdemeanor charges are pending.
Keel, a former prosecutor and Travis County sheriff, said Hernandez "aggressively charged" toward Heilman, who used his Taser twice to try to subdue him.
Keel, who has not seen the videotapes from the patrol cars, said that during the struggle, Heilman also used a baton to hit Hernandez "as hard as he could" and that Hernandez continued fighting.
"The suspect told officer Heilman, 'You're going to have to kill me,' pulled out the Taser probes and violently attacked officer Heilman," Keel said. "Both went to the ground in a violent and protracted struggle."
"The three officers had trouble controlling him even after leg restraints were applied," Keel said. "All use of force by the officers was necessary to protect themselves and subdue the suspect."
Keel said prosecutors handling the case have misinter- preted state laws concerning officers' use of force, which he said allows them to use any force necessary to repel aggression. Keel also said the officers were prevented from fully explaining themselves to grand jurors.
Assistant Travis County District Attorney Patty Robertson said, "We are limited in what we can say after indictment and prior to trial."
Keel said Hernandez told the officers and paramedics that he was high on "ice" — a form of methamphetamine. Vazquez Bode, Hernandez's lawyer, said he tested negative for drugs immediately after the incident.
She said Hernandez rear-ended a woman's car after reaching for his cell phone to call his wife and left the accident scene to collect his thoughts and pray.
Vazquez Bode described Hernandez as "a devout Christian who doesn't drink, smoke or use drugs." She said Hernandez has no criminal record and that Heilman attacked Hernandez, who she said is about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs about 125 pounds, without provocation.
"Any baseless attacks on my client's character by the criminal defense attorney for the officers will be shown to have no merit," she said. "It's going to be extremely clear what happened in this process and how victimized my client was."
Austin Police Association President Mike Sheffield was more reserved about his opinion.
"We haven't seen the evidence," he said. "The grand jury has, and they made the decision to move this forward."
According to department records, Gray and Heilman each have filed 20 use-of-force reports during their tenures. Follmer, a former Travis County probation officer, has filed one in his five months with the department.
Details of those incidents were not available Friday. A typical officer filed about seven use-of-force reports from 1998 to 2003.
Heilman had been on restricted duty since October, when he shot a man inside a North Austin house after the man refused to take his hands out of his pockets and repeatedly told officers to "shoot." The man, who was found to have two knives, survived the gunshot wound to his cheek.
Heilman was not indicted in that case.
14, 2005 - BRAZORIA — A
part-time Brazoria police officer arrested on a driving while
intoxicated charge is no longer on the city payroll after the city
secretary received the officer’s resignation paperwork
Manager Thom Smyser said.
January 28, 2005 - VANCOUVER –
A Vancouver man has won an out-of-court settlement from the RCMP after
an incident in which he says he was illegally searched.
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