City Employee: Police Officer Beat Me
POSTED: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 6:45am
UPDATED: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - 6:25pm
A city employee says he was beaten up by a cop after he was stopped because his license plate wasn't visible. The officer claimed he was evading arrest.
Three years ago, three motorcyclists driving on the east side when a police cruiser pulls behind them. But they didn't think anything of it.
"The patrol officers behind us never turned on his overhead lights or ever attempted to make a stop," said the man arrested. We'll call him Miguel for our story. He says another police cruiser then sped past them with his lights on. Not knowing the cruiser behind them had called for backup, Miguel assumed the second officer was going to another call.
But the officer was weaving in the road, so Miguel tried to pull over to the closest place he saw - the parking lot of a bank. But the cruiser with its lights on cut in front of Miguel, causing a crash.
"Him and the other officer that were on the scene threw me off my bike and took me to the median and began beating me up."
The two officers are Steven Smith and Charles Romo. Miguel says Smith is the one making most of the comments in the video.
"I was yelling, 'Stop, I don't know what's going on, why are you guys doing this.'"
Miguel says he wasn't evading arrest, that he was just confused because he had never been pulled over from the front before. His attorney, Mark Davis, says the situation also struck him as unusual.
"The police officer pulled in front of him, and then started weaving back and forth in front of him," Davis said. "It was not like anything I've ever seen."
"I thought they had the wrong guy," Miguel said. "They kept mentioning they had been after guys like me for a long time."
Miguel says he suffered injuries to his chin and leg, and that he was in crutches for weeks and on unpaid leave from work for three months. Officer Smith received a 20-hour paid suspension, a punishment that Davis doesn't think was harsh enough.
"Grossly inadequate," he said. "It didn't deal with the problem, didn't stop it, didn't draw the attention of other offices who might use excessive force themselves."
"I would've taken a 20-hour paid suspension over the 3 months of work that I had," Miguel said.
But this wasn't the first complaint filed against Smith. At the time of the incident, he had 10 complaints filed against him. According to this summary, back in 2002, Smith left work early, saying he was sick. But hours later, he was involved in a bar fight. He was later suspended for unprofessional conduct and violating their sick leave policy. Then again in 2004, he was asked by a civilian to move a shopping cart in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The situation escalated into a fight and smith was once again suspended.
In a written testimony, Smith says he was upset because the impact with Miguel's motorcycle caused damaged to his brand-new police vehicle. He says he had no excuses for losing his composure but that he never punched or kicked Miguel. Instead, he says he used distraction techniques in order to make the arrest. The evading arrest charge against Miguel was immediately dropped, and he won a settlement from the city for $15,000. But he says because Smith is still on the force, he's worried this can happen again.
"He's definitely not someone who should be wearing a badge," Miguel said. "I mean these people are placed in a position of authority to protect everyone."
We tried to reach the police department all day for comment; we heard back late in the afternoon, confirming that discipline was given. In the policies for a vehicular pursuit, we found, offensive tactics in response to vehicular pursuits are prohibited. These tactics include ramming, forcing the pursued vehicle off the road, or roadblocks.
In Smith's reprimand, this was never mentioned, nor was the use of excessive force. Instead, Smith was suspended because of his use of profanity. A source in the police department tells us Smith is now up for promotion.