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Judge issues ruling in excessive force case

July 30, 2018

Free Version

Judge

issues

ruling

in case

Excessive force

lawsuit against

city dismissed

By MARK REAGAN

Staff Writer

A federal judge has dismissed an excessive force lawsuit against the City of Brownsville but allowed one allegation against a former Brownsville detention officer to remain.

Daniel Alejandro Alanis sued the City of Brownsville and former detention officer Antonio Martinez in 2016, alleging that after being arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge, Martinez used excessive force by picking him up in a bear-hug and slamming the man headfirst into a padded wall of a cell, breaking the man’s hip.

On July 24, U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera dismissed the City of Brownsville from the lawsuit, as well as dismissing one of two alleged excessive force constitutional violations against Martinez. Olvera adopted the report and recommendation on the ruling from a magistrate court.

On Feb. 20, 2015, three police officers responded to Alanis’ home after Alanis called police because he got into a fistfight with his brother, sustaining a bloody nose and giving his brother a bloody lip, court documents show.

A housemate told police Alanis was “necio” all day, or feisty, and police determined he was the instigator and arrested him on a charge of assault, a Class A misdemeanor.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

A more complete version of this story is available on www.myBrownsvilleHerald.com

Premium Version

Judge

issues

ruling

on case

Excessive force

lawsuit against

city dismissed

By MARK REAGAN

Staff Writer

A federal judge has dismissed an excessive force lawsuit against the City of Brownsville but allowed one allegation against a former Brownsville detention officer to remain.

Daniel Alejandro Alanis sued the City of Brownsville and former detention officer Antonio Martinez in 2016, alleging that after being arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge, Martinez used excessive force by picking him up in a bear-hug and slamming the man headfirst into a padded wall of a cell, breaking the man’s hip.

On July 24, U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera dismissed the City of Brownsville from the lawsuit, as well as dismissing one of two alleged excessive force constitutional violations against Martinez. Olvera adopted the report and recommendation on the ruling from a magistrate court.

On Feb. 20, 2015, three police officers responded to Alanis’ home after Alanis called police because he got into a fistfight with his brother, sustaining a bloody nose and giving his brother a bloody lip, court documents show.

A housemate told police Alanis was “necio” all day, or feisty, and police determined he was the instigator and arrested him on a charge of assault, a Class A misdemeanor.

While being transported to the city jail, Alanis allegedly became aggressive by “hollering” and kicking the window in the police car, so the officer transporting the man let the jail know they needed assistance.

Martinez met the officers transporting Alanis, court documents show.

Alanis alleges Martinez grabbed him in a rough manner, causing him to recoil and turn back. According to his lawsuit, Martinez suddenly put Alanis in a bear-hug, lifted him off the pavement and dragged him through the doors to the first cell on the left, according to the lawsuit.

“There, without stopping and with all his weight and momentum, defendant Martinez drove plaintiff into the back wall of Cell 114 and then slammed him face-first onto the floor. Plaintiff howled in pain, his left hip socket was shattered,” the lawsuit states.

Alanis claims the detention officers left him on the floor for more than an hour before taking him to the hospital, and a medical report included in the court documents states that Alanis’ injury was likened to ones sustained in high velocity car crashes or from falls from significant heights.

Four days after his injury, he had to undergo urgent surgery, court documents indicate.

The Brownsville Police Department conducted an internal investigation into the incident and determined that Martinez did not use excessive force.

Martinez disputes that he intentionally slammed Alanis into the floor.

The former detention officer asserts that while he was taking Alanis to the cell their legs became entangled and they tripped, causing them to fall head-first into the wall.

There are several videos that exist showing the incident, and both Alanis and Martinez provided experts who testified to affirm their positions on whether Martinez intentionally slammed Alanis into the wall or whether it was an accident.

The magistrate judge, in his recommended ruling, said he watched the videos several times.

“After multiple viewings of the videos, the Court finds that the video evidence does not so clearly discredit Alanis’s testimony that no reasonable jury could believe his accounts of events,” the ruling states.

Basically, a reasonable juror could interpret both versions of events.

However, reports from the other detention officers seem to contradict Martinez’s explanation that he tripped, court documents show.

Officers filing reports about the incident wrote that “Martinez escorted Alanis to the floor of the padded cell,” the ruling notes.

The Brownsville Police Department investigation also never mentioned Martinez’s explanation that he tripped, court documents indicate.

The court ruled that a factual dispute exists.

“But, assuming Alanis’s account is correct, Martinez could have violated clearly established law by deliberately driving a much smaller handcuffed individual who was restrained in his grip into a padded wall with sufficient force to break his hip, when the only resistance that had taken place was the individual pulling away from an officer’s grip,” the report and recommendation states.

However, a determination of whether Martinez’s conduct was objectively reasonable under law is precluded by the dispute of whether Martinez accidentally tripped or whether he purposefully slammed Alanis, causing the man’s hip to break.

Alanis said in his lawsuit that he suffered severe, debilitating injuries, permanent bodily impairment and disfigurement, and that he has approximately $83,000 in medical expenses. He complains of loss of earnings and earning capacity, great physical pain and severe mental anguish.

Alanis is seeking compensatory damages and exemplary damages of $3,000.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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