By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
A Port Isabel man has filed a complaint alleging he was the victim of excessive force while in the custody of the Port Isabel Police Department.
Roberto Aguilera says he was shocked in the genitals while in the booking room of the Port Isabel City Jail on the night of Nov. 30. Aguilera had been taken into custody after an employee at Doubleday Sports Bar called the police in response to an incident that occurred at the popular restaurant.
Aguilera contacted the Press on Dec. 1 to report the incident. At the time, however, no official complaint of misconduct had been filed with the police department. “Without him coming in, we can’t look at it internally at all,” Chief Gualberto “Wally” Gonzalez said the following day. “It would be against the law,” he said in reference to state law governing complaints against law enforcement officers.
That statute, Article 6252-20 of Vernon’s Civil Statutes, states that “… the complaint must be placed in writing and signed by the person making the complaint.” Furthermore, a copy of the signed complaint must then be presented to the officer in question.
Aguilera alleges that arresting officer, David Martinez, stunned him in the genitals intentionally, causing visible injury.
In a copy of surveillance video of the booking room obtained by the Press, Officer Martinez can be seen standing alone with Aguilera while preparing to document his booking. Martinez walks behind a counter in the center of the room; Aguilera then begins walking towards an open jail cell and proceeds to close the door.
Martinez tells Aguilera to return to the counter, and approaches the jail cell himself. He opens the door and pulls Aguilera, who had begun removing his shoes, out of the cell. Aguilera appears to struggle with the officer. Aguilera can then be heard yelling repeatedly “Beat me up, beat me up,” as Martinez continues to hold onto him, eventually returning to the counter in the middle of the room.
Aguilera motions to the surveillance camera, saying the video is recording, and again says, “Beat me up.” He then appears to attempt to strike the countertop with his head. Martinez and Aguilera struggle, falling to the ground, with the Aguilera on his stomach, and Martinez behind him, one arm reaching over Aguilera’s shoulder to restrain him. Martinez yells for assistance, and is joined moments later by a dispatcher and a female officer.
Martinez then brings Aguilera to his feet, still maintaining a grip with one arm, while the female officer can be seen removing a tip from Martinez’s stun gun, which he holds in his right hand. The Port Isabel Police Department uses a model of stun gun with a removable tip that allows for it to be used in direct contact.
It is then when the alleged incident occurs. The female officer moves towards Aguilera’s left side while Martinez remains on his right. A few seconds later, Martinez administers a shock with the stun gun, causing Aguilera to cry out and collapse to the ground. Martinez and the female officer help him back to his feet and then proceed to continue the booking procedure, which involves a pat down. He is then placed in a holding cell.
Though no formal complaint had yet been filed, City Manager Jared Hockema began looking into the allegations unofficially. Upon reviewing the surveillance video, Hockema remarked, “What the evidence shows is that he resisted arrest and failed to follow the lawful commands of police officers, and that police officers used force to restrain him and to bring him into compliance with their lawful commands.”
Chief Gonzalez attempted to reach out to Aguilera to urge him to file a formal complaint, but Aguilera was reticent, fearing possible retaliation, he later told the Press.
The only charge against Aguilera that night was a charge of public intoxication, but on the night of Tuesday, Dec. 8, Aguilera was again arrested on a family violence charge of simple assault. He bonded out the next day, returning to the police department to file a formal complaint from the night of the first arrest.
On Thursday, Dec. 10, Aguilera returned to the Press office to speak more about the incident. During the course of a conversation with a staff member, Aguilera made a remark about shooting the police. Moments later, he left.
The Press reported the incident to the Port Isabel Police Department and Aguilera was arrested the following day on a charge of making a terroristic threat against a public servant, a Class A misdemeanor.
Meanwhile, Aguilera’s complaint, filed earlier in the week, had finally sparked an official investigation. Aguilera had also been in contact with the Texas Rangers, who began looking into the matter themselves.
“(The) Texas Rangers came in and did an inquiry,” Chief Gonzalez said. They reviewed the surveillance video and found that Aguilera, “had clearly resisted arrest,” and had, “made several false complaints,” Gonzalez said.
“I do feel vindicated,” Gonzalez said.
Aguilera was later released on a $7,500 bond. The Port Isabel Police Department continues to investigate the complaint internally, and are currently reviewing their policies, Gonzalez said. A copy of Aguilera’s complaint could not be obtained. Gonzalez says this is not the first time Aguilera has accused an officer of misconduct. In August, he alleged an officer had assaulted him. It was later found that the accused officer was not on duty on the day of the alleged incident, Gonzalez said.
Officer David Martinez, with no other allegations of excessive force in his seven year career as an officer, remains on active duty.
“We take all of these type of allegations seriously,” Hockema said.
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