Excessive force lawsuit settled - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Excessive force lawsuit settled

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Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2019 8:30 pm

A former City of Brownsville detention officer decided to settle a federal civil lawsuit rather than letting a jury decide whether he and an inmate tripped into a wall or whether he slammed the inmate headfirst into a padded wall of a cell, shattering the man’s hip.

The details of the settlement in the case of Daniel Alejandro Alanis, who sued the City of Brownsville and former detention officer Antonio Martinez in 2016, weren’t immediately available in the court record and an attorney representing Martinez couldn’t immediately be reached.

The attorneys in the case have until mid-August to finalize the settlement that the parties reached last Thursday, which stopped the case from going to trial on Monday.

Nearly a year ago, 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.

The events leading up to Alanis’ injuries started on Feb. 20, 2015, after three police officers responded to the man’s home after he called police because he got into a fistfight with his brother. Alanis would end up being arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge after police determined he was an instigator.

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

Martinez was one of those officers, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Alanis grabbed Martinez in a rough manner, causing the man to recoil and turn back when Martinez suddenly placed Alanis in a bear-hug, lifted him off the pavement and dragged him through the doors to a cell.

“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.

Then he claims he stayed on the floor for more than an hour before being taken to the hospital where he was treated for an injury that a medical report included in court documents that likens Alanis’ injury to those sustained in high velocity car crashes or from falls from significant heights.”

The Brownsville Police Department cleared Martinez of using excessive force after conducting an internal investigation.

Martinez maintains that he did not intentionally slam Alanis into the floor, but says their legs became entangled and they tripped, causing them to fall head-first into the wall, court documents indicate.

There are videos of the incident and both Alanis and Martinez provided experts affirming their positions as to whether Martinez intentionally slammed Alanis into the wall or whether the two tripped, causing Alanis’ injury.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan, who provided the recommendation to Olvera, said he viewed 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 reasonably jury could believe his accounts of events,” Morgan wrote.

In other words, a reasonable juror could interpret both versions.

Morgan ruled that there were additional factual disputes that existed, including the Brownsville Police Department’s investigation into the event which never mentioned Martinez’s explanation that he and Alanis tripped.

Rather, reports in that investigation say “Martinez escorted Alanis to the floor.”

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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