AUSTIN (KXAN) — With a bag of food in his hand, 52-year-old Pete Hernandez stepped out of the South Austin Walmart on June 7, 2012.
Seconds later, he was on the ground, face down, while Austin Police officers restrained him beside a black SUV which had been reported stolen by a couple out of Houston.
Attorney Robert Ranco says Hernandez was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And was the wrong guy.
“He did not do anything more than walk past the vehicle that had been stolen,” said Ranco who is representing Hernandez in a lawsuit against APD and the officers involved. “He did not touch it, he did not move towards it, he just walked past it.”
The entire incident is caught on APD patrol car dash camera obtained by Ranco through open records requests.
In the video, you can hear an officer radioing to other officers “grab that dude, grab that dude,” as Hernandez casually walks past the SUV.
Within a few seconds, officers with guns drawn approach him, order him to the ground, before forcefully taking him there.
“He didn’t know what was going on, so he hesitated. He did not resist,” said Ranco.
Moments later, a female suspect is pulled from the SUV and when officers ask her if she knew Hernandez, she says she did not.
Hernandez’s roommate then tries to convince officers they have made a mistake.
“He has heart trouble. You don’t have to throw him to the ground,” yells the roommate.
Officers tell the roommate Hernandez is not under arrest, but only being detained.
“This truck is stolen. He looked in the truck and we though he was involved,” said the officer to Hernandez’s roommate. “She (the female suspect inside) is obviously waiting on somebody. So that is why we jumped on him.”
The Dash cam video later shows the actual male accomplice suspect being put into the back of a patrol car.
Eight officers are named in the lawsuit.
Ranco said he is unaware of any discipline administered by the department against the officers. Such information would not be public record if the discipline is anything less than a one-day suspension.
“He has had on-going treatment on his back and has had epidural steroid injections,” said Ranco about his clients injuries.
Hernandez did not have insurance at the time of the incident according to Ranco and medical bills were costly, but they are not seeking a specific dollar amount in the lawsuit.
“I defer to the jury on that. They have the wisdom, they’ll hear everything in the case and determine what they think is fair,” said Ranco.
Austin Police Department told KXAN they do not comment on lawsuits pending litigation.