A Galveston couple is suing three police officers who they say arrested and beat their 12-year-old daughter after mistaking her for a prostitute.
The officers have filed documents saying their conduct was reasonable in light of the facts they had at the time. Named as defendants are Galveston Police Sgt. Gilbert Gomez and Officers David Roark and Sean Stewart.
Bill Helfand, an attorney for the officers, stressed that the lawsuit allegations have yet to be proven.
"If you go to the courthouse and read any complaint, the allegations are always bombastic," Helfand said. "There's nothing about the allegations that makes them true, just because they've been made."
The suit was filed against the officers individually, not the city of Galveston or the Police Department, on August 22, the last day to file before the statute of limitations ran out.
According to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Galveston, Dymond Larae Milburn went outside her home in the 2000 block of 24th to flip a circuit breaker about 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 22, 2006.
Responding to a call that three white prostitutes were soliciting in the neighborhood, the plainsclothes officers jumped out of an unmarked van on Gomez's orders and one of them grabbed the girl, who is black, the lawsuit states.
The girl contends that the officers did not identify themselves as police and that the officer who grabbed her, later identified as Roark, told her, "You're a prostitute. You're coming with me."
Her parents, Wilfred and Emily Milburn, heard her cries for help and came outside to see the hysterical girl hanging on to a tree and screaming "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" while two officers hit her in the head, face and throat, the family alleges.
One officer hit the girl in the back of the head with a flashlight during the incident, the lawsuit alleges. The police then left the scene.
Two hours later, Dymond Milburn was examined at the University of Texas Medical Branch emergency room and doctors found she had a sprained wrist, two black eyes, a bloody nose and blood in an ear, according to the lawsuit.
Weeks later, the girl was arrested during classes at Austin Middle School, where she was an honors student, the lawsuit states. She was tried a year later on a charge of resisting arrest, but the judge declared a mistrial on the first day, according to the lawsuit.
Anthony Griffin, the attorney for the Milburns, said the mistrial stemmed from a remark by an officer on the witness stand. A new trial is scheduled for February.
Wilfred Milburn was arrested the next day for interfering with police and assaulting an officer in connection with the incident involving his daughter. Police also found drugs in Milburn's car, Griffin said. He said Milburn pleaded guilty to possession of drugs in exchange for having the other charges dropped.
The Milburn family is asking for unspecified damages for physical injuries and emotional problems.
Helfand said the actions were justifiable, given what the officers knew at the time.
Because the Milburn family never filed any complaint with the police department, the incident was not investigated. The officers remain on the force, a spokesman said.