Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Former Officer Rey Muniz Named in Lawsuit

A former Austin police officer is named in a federal lawsuit for failing to stop state troopers from making a false arrest. The KVUE Defenders uncovered why this isn’t the first time the officer has been accused of mishandling a case.

Rey Muniz has a difficult time trusting law enforcement. In a recently filed federal lawsuit, the Austin man claims May 2012 dashboard camera video shows a state trooper assaulting and falsely arresting him in a parking for not providing his ID.

“When an officer asks for your ID, you give it to him,” says DPS Trooper Chancy Davis in the video.

“Am I under arrest?" Muniz later asks in the video. 
"You’re being detained,” says Davis.

You can't see it in the video, but you can hear Muniz asking Davis to stop touching him.

Claiming that he felt he threatened, Muniz calls 911 and reports the incident.

A few minutes later, Austin Police Officer Timothy Little responds. When Muniz gets off the phone, he walks towards him, but Little signals him to stop and speaks with DPS troopers first.

"He should have came to me and talk to me. I’m the one who called 911," said Muniz.

"He arguably conspired with the other officers that were on site to get that story straight," said Jeff Kelly, Muniz’s attorney. "If he had gone directly to speak with Mr. Muniz, he would realize that he was being assaulted by the officers."

Troopers eventually arrested Muniz for failing to provide his ID and resisting arrest. Up to that point, Muniz had a clean record. The district attorney's office later dropped all charges.

So, what about Muniz’s claims DPS troopers assaulted him? While Little responded, the KVUE Defenders found he did not file a report on Muniz’s claims as a department policy clearly states should happen when reporting on citizen complaints.

Austin police say Little resigned more than a year after the Muniz's 911 call. APD says it's against the law to comment on the circumstances of his resignation.

This isn’t the first time Little has been accused of mishandling a 911 call. In March 2004, he responded to a 911 call from an Austin apartment.

According to an internal affairs investigation, when the door opened he recognized the man as “a police academy classmate.” The fellow officer told him he got into a fight with his girlfriend.

Instead of reporting it, Little told dispatch, “All quiet inside. No answer.”
The department suspended him for covering up for another officer’s conduct.

While Little is no longer with APD, the department remains liable for his action.

The KVUE Defenders wanted to know whether Austin Police Chief Art Acevado believes Little acted appropriately and if this is a broader problem that needs to be addressed in the department.

APD says the chief cannot discuss pending litigation or former employees.

In addition to the federal lawsuit, Muniz filed a complaint with the Travis County District Attorney's Office. It confirms it's investigating Muniz's complaint.

Go here for part one of the investigation.

No comments: