Possible Aggravated Assault Charges Against Police Officers
(TX) – Two Texas police officers may end up facing aggravated assault charges after they assaulted a citizen journalist. The incident occurred when Rolando Reyes, who has a social media page, was filming a car accident. Officer Johnny Cagle and Officer Mendoza, with the Lake Jackson Police Department, showed an astounding lack of job knowledge.
The two officers were working a traffic accident when Officer Cagle appears to take exception to Mr. Reyes recording the scene. For unknown reasons, he does not seem to have a problem with the woman who was closer to the scene and was recording it. Nor does he have a problem with the man standing in the road watching the accident. Officer Cagle chooses to harass Mr. Reyes and calls Officer Mendoza for additional support in his actions.
The two officers eventually resort to excessive force. They tackle Mr. Reyes, taking him to the ground, which results in physical injuries.
Right to Film Car Accident
Officer Johnny Cagle was obviously the instigator in the situation, but the lack of knowledge is unacceptable. The right to film has come up many times since cell phones with cameras are everywhere. I have no idea why Officer Cagle thought a person could not film a license plate. That is not true. According to the ACLU, under Your Rights as Photographer,
When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police.
But it really doesn’t take the ACLU telling us. This has been in the news many times. You would have to be living under a rock to not know it.
Police Academy Failures
Not understanding what rights the public has is just one of the mistakes these officers made. The two officers couldn’t even agree on the crime scene. Officer Mendoza says it’s closed and Officer Cagle says it’s an active investigation. None of which matters, since Mr. Reyes was not, in any way, trespassing on the crime scene. However, Officer Cagle seems to think calling something a crime scene allows him to do whatever he wants. He also seems to think he can call anything he wants a crime scene, no matter how far away it is.
When Officer Cagle got upset and decided to attack Mr. Reyes, he did so without warning. The officers never told Mr. Reyes he was under arrest or asked for his hands so they could handcuff him. Officer Cagle proceeds to attack and assault Mr. Reyes in a manner that has to at the very least be a policy violation.
The two officers showed a complete lack of understanding of civil rights and a willingness to resort to excessive force. With no justifiable reason, other than their hurt egos, the officers arrested Mr. Reyes.
Internal Affairs Investigation Complete
“Their actions were based on an erroneous understanding of law, which resulted in an arrest of a citizen who was legally videotaping a nearby traffic accident,” the release states. “Police department supervision quickly discovered the error, released the citizen and initiated our internal affairs process. At this time, the internal affairs investigation is complete, and we have taken appropriate action given the circumstances of the incident.”
An erroneous understanding of law? That is an understatement and ignores all the other violations they committed, including an unlawful arrest.
Results of the Assault
Officer Johnny Cagle resigned before the internal affairs investigation was complete. This is a very common tactic. It allows the officer to retain his commission and get hired at another agency if no legal action is taken. Officer Mendoza was given administrative leave without pay for an unspecified amount of time. He was also ordered to take remedial training.
Mr. Reyes’ civil rights were violated. He was assaulted and suffered physical injuries to his face. He was also unlawfully arrested. Mr. Reyes will be filing a civil lawsuit against the police department and will more than likely win. All of this because two officers were so ignorant that they didn’t know what was allowed at the scene of a car accident.
NOTE: The district attorney will determine if a crime was committed. If the district attorney does not feel there is enough to prosecute the officers, Johnny Cagle will be free to go to another agency with a clean record.