Texas police routinely brutalize medically susceptible individuals, lawsuit says

A broken dialysis machine. A damaged listening to support. A battered most cancers affected person. These allegations are included in a federal lawsuit filed this week in opposition to a Texas police division accused of routinely utilizing “extreme pressure on compliant civilians” — together with individuals with medical circumstances.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Courtroom for the Southern District of Texas by attorneys for the Nationwide Police Accountability Undertaking, alleges Rosenberg Police Division officers unlawfully detained a pair at gunpoint earlier than destroying , injury or confiscate their property, together with dialysis. system, November 6, 2020.

Regina Armstead and Michael Lewis, who are suffering from kidney illness, mentioned the almost hour-long hiatus left them “scared, humiliated, embarrassed and persecuted for being black,” the lawsuit states.

Regina Armstead and Michael Lewis.  The couple are suing the Rosenberg Police Department for unlawfully detaining them and damaging Lewis' dialysis machine.
Regina Armstead and Michael Lewis. The couple are suing the Rosenberg Police Division for unlawfully detaining them and damaging Lewis’ dialysis machine.Courtesy of Regina Armstead and Michael Lewis

Their expertise, in response to the lawsuit, is typical of “many different civilians” within the metropolis of about 39,000 individuals, positioned about 40 miles southwest of Houston.

The couple, who had been driving residence after having a meal, had been stopped by authorities on the lookout for a white automotive linked to a gaggle of armed youngsters, the lawsuit says.

Lewis and Armstead had been driving a white Dodge Charger however had been a lot older than the suspects: Armstead, a nursing assistant, is 57. Lewis, a retired Imperial Sugar supervisor, is 67.

But Armstead was handcuffed and positioned within the patrol car at gunpoint with out rationalization, in response to the prosecution.

The couple alerted officers to the system in Lewis’ arm getting used to hook up with a dialysis machine – and the warning he had acquired from docs to not put something tight round his fingers or wrists , relying on the mixture.

“However they simply saved doing what they needed to do,” Lewis informed NBC Information.

The system, a fistula, malfunctioned after Lewis was arrested, and he has wanted eight to 10 procedures within the almost two years since to make sure his three-day therapy went easily per week, he mentioned. On a visit final month, he mentioned a relay needed to be inserted into his arm to “open the vein”.

The couple had been launched with out cost, though officers who searched their automotive confiscated Armstead’s cell phone with out telling her, she mentioned.

And her key fob – which officers informed her to drop – ended up crushed and on the highway, she mentioned. Armstead’s cellphone was returned, however the division didn’t pay the $270 alternative value of its key system, regardless of a number of requests, she mentioned.

“I hope it makes it higher for all of us, however particularly for individuals of shade,” Armstead mentioned of the lawsuit. “It would not simply occur to us.”

Neither Rosenberg’s police chief nor town’s mayor responded to requests for remark. The regulation agency representing town didn’t reply, nor did two former police chiefs.

Cellphone messages left on the numbers listed for 4 of the officers named within the lawsuit weren’t returned and a fifth officer couldn’t be reached.

“He’s not a person officer”

A lawyer for the couple, Lauren Bonds, mentioned what Lewis and Armstead went by means of reveals how town’s police division operates with out “any accountability”.

“He is not a person officer flying below the radar,” she mentioned. “The town and the police division didn’t wish to enhance the conduct of their officers.”

The 5 officers concerned within the couple’s arrest have been named in about 100 complaints over seven years, Bonds mentioned, citing information his authorized crew obtained by means of a public data request.

In a 2016 incident talked about within the lawsuit, a mom described an officer throwing her son’s cellphone to the bottom and smashing it as he tried to report a police response to a loud household barbecue, mentioned Leaps. Two years in the past, officers “wielded pistols and rifles” at a gaggle of unarmed individuals filming a music video, in response to the lawsuit.

Bonds mentioned the data request discovered no disciplinary motion related to the complaints.

NBC Information has not verified the claims contained within the complaints. Neither the mayor nor the police chief responded to requests for remark.

Bonds additionally pointed to a sequence of lawsuits in opposition to the division that spanned greater than a decade, together with some filed by individuals with disabilities or medical circumstances. On this final class, one of many circumstances has been dismissed, one other has been settled and a 3rd is in progress.

A damaged listening to support

In 2009, an off-duty hearing-impaired police sergeant from close by Richmond was arrested in Rosenberg, in response to a federal lawsuit that Workers Sergeant Robert Eiteman filed.

The lawsuit, talked about within the grievance filed by the Police Accountability Undertaking, was dismissed in 2013.

In an affidavit included within the lawsuit, Eiteman, who wore just one listening to support on the time, mentioned he was not informed why he was arrested and believed he adopted the directions of the police. officer when he positioned his fingers on his automotive.

The officer, Justin Pannell, had really informed Eiteman to get again in his automotive – and what Pannell perceived as a problem prompted him to throw Eiteman to the bottom, in response to a choose’s resolution within the lawsuit.

Pannell punched and handcuffed Eiteman, then positioned his knee on the sergeant’s head and neck whereas urgent his face in opposition to the asphalt, in response to the ruling paperwork. Eiteman struggled to get into Pannell’s automotive and the officer threatened to ‘taser’ him, as per the ruling.

Within the affidavit, Eiteman mentioned his solely working listening to support — which value $4,500 — was damaged in the course of the encounter.

He was charged with drunken driving and resisting arrest, though he denied the allegations and the costs had been dismissed after a choose dominated there was no cause more likely to place him in custody, in response to the choice. In a grievance filed in 2011, Eiteman claimed that he was the sufferer of extreme pressure and a false arrest.

“By no means did I think about that I might turn out to be the goal of a very aggressive, lightning road cop with no respect for politics,” he mentioned within the affidavit.

Legal professionals representing town denied the allegations, saying in a courtroom submitting that Pannell used a “cheap” stage of pressure when Eiteman didn’t adjust to verbal orders. The choose agreed with town and in 2013 his lawsuit was thrown out.

A message left on a cellphone quantity listed as Eiteman was not returned, and the legal professional representing him didn’t reply to a request for remark. Pannell, who left the division and now works for a personal investigation agency, didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Altercation with a most cancers affected person

A 12 months after the Eiteman case was dismissed, a 51-year-old girl with a tool in her chest to manage most cancers medicine was accosted by a Rosenberg police officer throughout a home dispute, in response to a federal lawsuit filed in 2016 alleging extreme pressure. and false arrest.

The lawsuit was additionally referenced by the Police Accountability Undertaking.

The dispute escalated right into a bodily confrontation when an officer informed the lady’s husband to “stand again” as he alerted officers to her situation, in response to the lawsuit, which cited sprint cam video. After the person, Steven Saenz, backed off, an officer appeared to assault him and started “punching” his head, inflicting him to briefly move out, in response to the go well with.

One other officer tackled his spouse, Christine Saenz, in response to the lawsuit.

In disturbing cellphone video supplied to NBC Information by the household’s legal professional, Steven Saenz might be seen on the bottom along with his head bloodied and an officer above him. Christine Saenz seems to be on the bottom close by, yelling at her husband to “cease” as one other officer handcuffs her.

Because the officers grapple with Steven Saenz, Christine Saenz might be seen standing up earlier than an officer throws her to the bottom. The identical officer can then be seen punching Steven Saenz within the head.

“She must be checked out – she has most cancers,” the couple’s son might be heard saying shortly after the video was taken.

On July 30, the Saenzes had been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a public official and inflicting bodily hurt, in response to courtroom data. Their son Brandon Alaniz was additionally arrested and charged with interfering with an officer.

In a courtroom submitting included within the federal lawsuit, attorneys for the police division mentioned officers acted when Steven Saenz “bodily inserted himself” between an officer and his spouse.

“Officers requested Mr. Saenz to step again and cease interfering, however he refused to conform,” the submitting mentioned, including that the couple as a substitute assaulted the officers. Alaniz was taken into custody for “repeated interference” within the investigation, the doc says.

Courtroom data present that every one however one of many costs had been dismissed. A spokesperson for the Fort Bend County District Lawyer mentioned Alaniz’s cost was dropped because of inadequate proof.

The fees in opposition to Christine Saenz had been dismissed “within the pursuits of justice”, prosecutor’s spokesman Wesley Wittig mentioned. Wittig added that it was unclear what that meant, and extra information that would make clear the dismissal weren’t instantly out there.

The fees in opposition to Steven Saenz had been lowered to a misdemeanor of resistance, and he pleaded responsible and acquired a sentence, Wittig mentioned.

The Saenzes declined to be interviewed, however the legal professional who dealt with their civil rights lawsuit, Robert Whitley, mentioned the lawsuit was settled in 2017 for an undisclosed quantity.

Steven Saenz’s nostril was damaged within the altercation, in response to the lawsuit, and he and his spouse suffered concussions.

“These cops had been off the charts,” Whitley mentioned. “They blew this entire scenario up. It is the type of factor that makes your blood boil.

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