Thursday, December 18, 2014

Victoria Texas Police Officer Uses Taser On Senior Citizen 76 -- Not Once But Twice


It was reported on December 13th, 2014, that a Victoria, Texas, police officer is under investigation after a 76-year-old man accused him of using excessive force during a traffic stop.

The officer, Nathanial Robinson, 23, was placed on administrative duty Friday pending the outcome of an internal investigation into whether he violated the use of force policy when he tasered Victoria resident Pete Vasquez, said Chief J.J. Craig.

The officer was hired after graduating from the police academy two years ago.

The incident happened after Officer Robinson saw an expired inspection sticker on the car Mr Vasquez was driving back to Adam's Auto Mart, 2801 N. Laurent St., where he helps with mechanical work.

Mr Vasquez got out of the car, which is owned by the car lot, attempting to get the manager. He pointed out to the officer the dealer tags on the back of the car, which would make it exempt from having an inspection.

Police dashboard camera video shows Officer Robinson arresting Mr Vasquez for the expired sticker.

When the officer first grabbed Mr Vasquez's arm, the older man pulled it away. Officer Robinson then pushed Mr Vasquez down on the hood of the police cruiser.

The two fell out of the camera's video frame, but police said the officer used the Taser on Mr Vasquez twice while he was on the ground.

"He just acted like a pit bull, and that was it," Mr Vasquez said. "For a while, I thought he was going to pull his gun and shoot me."

Mr Vasquez was handcuffed, placed in the back of the police cruiser and taken to Citizens Medical Center, where he remained in police custody for two hours.



Chief Craig said the police department's dash cam footage "raises some concerns."

He decided to open the investigation after viewing the footage and has personally apologized to Mr Vasquez for the incident.

"Public trust is extremely important to us," Chief Craig said. "Sometimes that means you have to take a real hard look at some of the actions that occur within the department."

The internal investigation also will examine the details of the arrest. Driving with an expired inspection sticker is a Class C misdemeanor, typically addressed with a citation. Because Vasquez was driving a car with dealer tags, the car was exempt, Chief Craig confirmed.

Mr Vasquez was released from the hospital without being cited.

If the investigation finds the Officer Robinson violated the use of force policy, his possible punishment ranges from a letter of reprimand to suspension without pay -- or termination, Chief Craig said.

District Attorney Stephen Tyler said he has not been contacted by police about the case or seen the video.

First, authorities must determine whether criminal wrongdoing, moral wrongdoing or a policy violation occurred. Possible charges include official oppression, injury to elderly, aggravated assault and assault, he said.
Mr Tyler said the incident was bad timing given the headlines dominating national news, but said Victoria isn't Ferguson, Missouri, or New York.

"You want to make sure you give the right kind of person a badge and a gun," he said.

Larry Urich, a 62-year-old sales manager at the car lot, said watching the scuffle unfold made him sick. He said he wanted the officer fired and prosecuted for excessive use of force and causing bodily harm to an elderly person.

"I told the officer, 'What in the hell are you doing?' This gentleman is 76 years old," Mr Urich said. "The cop told me to stand back, but I didn't shut up. I told him he was a g-------- Nazi Stormtrooper."

Mr Urich followed behind the police car that drove Vasquez to the hospital and waited until his friend was released.

"There should have been an ambulance called for this elderly gentleman," Mr Urich said. "He should not have been handcuffed to go to the emergency room when he had not done anything wrong."

Through it all, Urich said, he feels sorry for the officer.

"He's probably a good family man, but you don't treat people like that," Mr Urich said. "I don't see how in the world anyone would think he should keep his job after that."

A day after the incident, Mr Vasquez said he still had body aches and expected it would be a few days before he healed.

"I feel like my rights were violated," he said. "The police department is supposed to train their police officers to be more conscientious and use common sense. I don't think he had any."

Chief Craig said he hired the officer "because he was a very good candidate," but he also felt obliged to talk to Mr Vasquez in person to apologize for the incident.

Mr Vasquez said he appreciated the conversation with the chief.

"He didn't want me to think that all policemen are like that," Vasquez said. "I said he's got a lot to do to prove to me that."

For me, I hope Mr Vasquez sues the department. It appears that lawsuits and the city having to pay for the misconduct of their officers is the only way many of these department will rein in heavy handed policeman who are tarnishing the name of great officers out there.

I have been a Military Policeman and a Correctional Officer. And yes, even in the most heated moments, I never got mad or lashed out.

Being a professional meant keeping a proper businesslike demeanor even when dealing with a-holes. Anger and and vengeance never came into play. I saw it happen where others would get so emotional and get lost in the moment, they didn't last long in that field. I never let it take over my thinking.

When this Officer saw that it was dealer's plates, he should have pulled away from the situation -- instead he, and really only he, allowed it to escalate to his wrestling a 76 year old man on the ground and tasering him twice.

The cop was the professional in this situation. He supposedly deals with real bad situations everyday. Most law abiding citizens never ever have confrontations with the police.

For me, and maybe I'm in the minority on this one, but I can understand how an American who knows he has not done anything wrong does not want to be treated poorly.
As for cops who are heavy handed and out of control, take a look at what took place in Dayton, Florida.

On May 16th, 2014, Christine Chippewa was beaten, had her teeth knocked out, and a flashlight was shoved down her throat after a run in with two Daytona Beach police officers.

Ms Chippewa was sitting in her car in a parking lot when Officers Justin Ranum and Matthew Booth approached her. The two officers said they saw Chippewa put a "bag of cocaine" in her mouth.

That is when Officer Ranum’s body camera goes blank. And yes, the next thing that takes place when the arrest ended is that Ms Chippewa was being rushed to a local hospital with her teeth knocked out.

Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said, "Clearly in the middle of the arrest the camera goes blank and then I have a woman with her teeth knocked out of her mouth and headed to the hospital. And I have this documentation of ‘Oh these things happened,’ well why’d your camera go off?”

Chief Chitwood asserts that Officer Ranum turned off the camera himself.

Chippewa filed a complaint with the Daytona Beach Police Department claiming that the officers used excessive force during the arrest. She says Booth put his fingers down her throat, shoved a flashlight in her mouth and kicked her in the head.

"Further investigation into officer Booth and the injuries that this woman suffered are conducive to excessive force and that’s not how we operate," said Chief Chitwood.

Yes, sadly it takes horrible incidents for good officers like Chief Chitwood to see that there is a bad one in his ranks. And yes, I tip my hat to Chief Chitwood because both of the officers involved in this crime are now out of a job. They have both been fired over this incident!

While all charges against Chippewa were dropped, she also received a $20,000 settlement. But frankly, I think she should get more just for medical and dental costs alone.

Some will say that the situations being caught on video such as with the officer in Victoria, Texas, and those of officers like the two bad ones in Florida who knowingly turned off their body cameras are just more examples of an epidemic plaguing departments across the country.

Since there are about 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the United States, epidemic or not, the bad apples are truly tarnishing the reputations of the vast majority of good officers out there who dedicate their careers to doing as good a job as expected for their departments and their community.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.
Tom Correa

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