The lawsuit alleges that Texas police are routinely cruel to the medically weak

Damaged dialysis machine. Hearing adjusted. A rough cancer patient. The allegations were included in a federal lawsuit filed this week against a Texas police department accused of routinely using “extreme force on obedient civilians” – including people with medical problems.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in US District Court for the Southern District of Texas by attorneys at the National Police Accountability Project, alleges that Rosenberg Police Department officers unlawfully held a married couple at gunpoint before destroying, damaging or confiscating their property, including laundering. the kidneys; The device, on November 6, 2020.

Regina Armstead and Michael Lewis, who has kidney disease, said the nearly hour-long pause left them feeling “intimidated, humiliated, embarrassed and persecuted for being black,” the lawsuit says.

Regina Armstead and Michael Lewis.  The couple are suing the Rosenberg Police Department for illegally detaining them and destroying Lewis' dialysis machine.
Regina Armstead and Michael Lewis. The couple are suing the Rosenberg Police Department for illegally detaining them and destroying Lewis’ dialysis machine.Courtesy of Regina Armstead and Michael Lewis

Their experience, according to the lawsuit, is typical of “many other civilians” in the city of about 39,000, located about 40 miles southwest of Houston.

The lawsuit said the couple, who were driving home after a meal, were stopped by authorities looking for a white car linked to a group of armed teens.

Lewis and Armstead were driving a white Dodge Charger but they were much older than the suspects: Armstead, a nursing assistant, is 57. Lewis, retired Imperial Sugar superintendent, is 67 years old.

The lawsuit alleges, however, that Armstead’s hands were tied and placed in the patrol car at gunpoint without explanation.

The pair alerted officers to the device in Lewis’ arm used to connect to the dialysis machine — and the warning he received from doctors not to put anything tightly around his hands or wrists, according to the suit.

“But they just kept doing what they wanted to do,” Lewis told NBC News.

He said the device, a fistula, malfunctioned after Lewis’ arrest, and he’s needed eight to 10 procedures in the nearly two years since to ensure his treatment runs smoothly three days a week. During last month’s trip, he said a period had to be inserted into his arm to “open a vein”.

The couple were released without charges, though officers who searched their car confiscated Armstead’s phone without telling her, she said.

She said her master key – which officers told her to drop – ended up broken and on the way. Armstead’s phone was returned, but management did not pay the $270 to replace its flagship device, despite multiple requests, she said.

“I hope this makes it better for all of us, but especially for people of color,” Armstead said of the lawsuit. “It doesn’t just happen to us.”

Neither Rosenberg’s police chief nor the city’s mayor responded to requests for comment. Neither the law firm representing the city nor two former police chiefs responded.

Telephone messages left on the listed numbers for four of the officers named in the suit were not returned, nor was a fifth officer reached.

This is not a single officer.

The couple’s attorney, Lauren Bonds, said what Lewis and Armstead went through shows how the city’s police department operates “without accountability.”

“This is not a lone officer who flies under the radar,” she said. “The city and the police department were not willing to improve the behavior of their officers.”

Bonds said the five officers involved in the couple’s arrest have been named in about 100 complaints over seven years, citing data her legal team obtained through a public records request.

Bonds said that in a 2016 incident referenced in the lawsuit, a mother described an officer who threw her son’s phone to the ground and broke it while trying to record a police response to a noisy family cooking. The lawsuit says that two years ago, officers “waved pistols and rifles” at a group of unarmed people who were filming a music video.

Bonds said the records request did not reveal any disciplinary actions associated with the complaints.

NBC News has not verified the allegations in the complaints. Neither the mayor nor the police chief responded to requests for comment.

Bonds also noted a series of lawsuits against the department that spanned more than a decade, including some by people with disabilities or medical problems. In this latter category, one case has been dismissed, another has been settled, and a third case is still ongoing.

broken hearing

In 2009, a hearing-impaired off-duty police sergeant, from nearby Richmond, was arrested in Rosenberg, according to a federal lawsuit filed by Sgt. Robert Whiteman.

The lawsuit, contained in the complaint from the Police Accountability Project, was dismissed in 2013.

In an affidavit included in the lawsuit, Whiteman, who was wearing only one hearing aid at the time, said he was not told why he was stopped, and believes he was following the officer’s instructions when he put his hands on his head. Sentences.

The officer, Justin Bannell, had asked Whiteman to get back in his car — and what Bannell saw as a challenge led him to throw Eatman to the ground, according to the judge’s decision in the suit.

According to the documents in the resolution, Banel punched Aitman and handcuffed him, then put his knee on the sergeant’s head and neck while pressing his face into the asphalt. Whiteman struggled to get to Bannell’s car, and the officer threatened to “harass” him, according to the decision.

In the affidavit, Whiteman said his hearing aid — which cost $4,500 — was broken during the confrontation.

He was booked on suspicion of drunk driving and resisting arrest, though he denied the allegations and the charges were dismissed after a judge found there was no probable reason for his detention, according to the decision. In a lawsuit filed in 2011, Eatman claimed that he was a victim of excessive force and false arrest.

“I never imagined I would become the target of an overly aggressive street cop, with no regard for politics,” he said in the affidavit.

Lawyers representing the city denied the allegations, saying in the court filing that Bannell used a “reasonable” level of force when Etman failed to comply with verbal orders. The judge agreed with the city, and in 2013, his lawsuit was dismissed.

A message left on a phone number listed under Aitman’s name was not returned, and the attorney who represented him did not respond to a request for comment. Bannell, who left the department and now works for a private investigations firm, did not respond to a request for comment.

Consultation with a cancer patient

A year after the Eitman case was dismissed, a Rosenberg police officer treated a 51-year-old woman with a device in her chest to give cancer-fighting drugs during a family dispute, according to a federal lawsuit filed in 2016 alleging the use of excessive force. A false arrest.

The lawsuit was also referenced by the Police Accountability Project.

The feud escalated into a physical confrontation when an officer asked the woman’s husband to “retreat” as he alerted officers to her condition, according to the lawsuit, which cited the dashcam video. After the man, Stephen Sainz, retreated, an officer appeared to treat him and began to “hit” his head, causing him to temporarily lose consciousness, the suit says.

According to the lawsuit, another officer dealt with his wife, Kristen Sainz.

In a disturbing mobile video clip provided to NBC News by the family’s attorney, Stephen Sainz can be seen lying on the floor with his head covered in blood and an officer on top of him. Kristen Sainz was apparently on the ground nearby, screaming for her husband to “stop” while another officer put handcuffs on her.

As the officers wrestle with Stephen Sainz, Kristen Sainz can be seen rising to her feet before being thrown to the ground by an officer. The same officer can then be seen hitting Stephen Sainz in the head.

The man recording the video, the couple’s son, can be heard saying shortly afterwards: “She needs to be tested – she has cancer.”

On July 30, Saenzes was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a government employee and causing bodily injury, according to court records. Their son, Brandon Alanez, was also arrested and charged with interfering with an officer’s order.

In a lawsuit included in the federal lawsuit, police department attorneys said the officers acted when Stephen Sainz “physically inserted himself” between an officer and his wife.

“Officers asked Mr. Sainz to step back and stop interfering but he refused to comply,” the suit said, adding that instead, the couple assaulted the officers. The document says Alanis has been detained on charges of “repeated interference” in the investigation.

Court records show that all but one of the charges were dropped. A spokesperson for the Fort Bend County District Attorney said the Alanis charge was dropped due to insufficient evidence.

A spokesman for the attorney general, Wesley Wittig, said the charges against Kristen Sainz were dropped “for the sake of justice”. It wasn’t clear what that meant, Wittig added, and additional files that could explain the class were not immediately available.

Wittig said the charges against Stephen Sainz were reduced to a misdemeanor of resistance, and he pleaded guilty and earned his time.

The Saenzes declined to be interviewed, but the attorney who handled the civil rights lawsuit, Robert Whiteley, said the lawsuit was settled in 2017 for an undisclosed amount.

The lawsuit says Stephen Sainz’s nose was broken in the melee, and he and his wife suffered a concussion.

“Those cops were off the charts,” Whiteley said. They blew up this whole situation. It’s the kind that makes your blood boil.”

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