Two Fort Worth police officers are accused of using excessive force against a man who was slammed to the pavement outside a downtown Fort Worth bar in 2020, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday.
According to the suit, which was filed in the Northern District of Texas-Fort Worth division, officers “violently slammed” Cesar Salinas face-first into the pavement without justification.
Fort Worth police confirmed the two officers currently work at the department, but referred questions regarding the lawsuit to the city’s attorneys office. City Attorney Leann Guzman said the city had no comment on the suit, except to note the city has not yet been served in this lawsuit.
The suit names the two officers as the sole defendants. Neither the Fort Worth Police Department nor the city of Fort Worth are listed as defendants.
“This is not a case where someone was shot or killed,” said James Roberts, one of Salinas’ attorneys with Scott H. Palmer, P.C. “However, police brutality includes all levels of unjustified force. In order to stop civil rights violations and hold officers accountable for their actions, we must shed light on all civil rights violations — not just those resulting in death.”
Excessive force accusation
Two officers, identified in the lawsuit as Officers Teresa Torres and Steve Loud, were investigating a complaint from a woman who said she was groped by an unknown Hispanic man outside of a bar, the suit says. Salinas was inside a downtown bar playing pool, according to the suit, when he stepped outside to smoke an electronic cigarette.
Loud came up behind Salinas and asked to speak with him, the suit says. Loud asked for Salinas’ identification, and Salinas handed him his wallet. According to the suit, Salinas was “alarmed at being suddenly accosted by (Loud)“ and pulled out his phone and called his friend, who was inside the bar.
Loud asked Salinas to walk over to the police car, but did not tell him why, according to the suit. Salinas said no, and that he “would stand right where they were and wait,” adding that he was “not even running, I’m not even resisting.”
Torres approached Salinas, and Loud told her that Salinas or another man had groped a woman, but that the woman had not identified who it was at that point, according to the suit. He also told Torres that Salinas was refusing to be identified, the suit says, despite the fact that Salinas had handed over his identification.
Torres asked Salinas for his name, and Salinas told her he had just given Loud his ID from his wallet, the suit says. At the time, he was holding his phone to his ear with one hand and holding his electronic cigarette in the other, according to screenshots included in the lawsuit from the officers’ bodycam footage.
Torres said, “I’m taking over,” and grabbed Salinas’ phone without warning, according to the suit. She repeatedly asked Salinas what his name was and pulled on his phone, he said. Salinas kept hold on his phone, and Torres said, “stop, stop,” the suit says.
Torres swung Salinas to the right in a spinning motion and Loud grabbed Salinas’ left hand and arm, the suit says. The officers then “slammed (Salinas) face first into the ground, causing (Salinas’) face to strike the hard pavement.”
Salinas’ face started bleeding and officers put a spit mask over his face — a mask that is used primarily to keep a person from spitting at or biting officers. In a screenshot included in the lawsuit, Salinas’ face is covered by a white mask, and wet blood covers about half of the cloth.
Officers wrote in an incident report of Salinas’ arrest that when he was on the ground, officers noticed he held a folding knife in his left hand. A screenshot of the bodycam video shows the folded green knife on the pavement next to Salinas.
The suit says the officers’ incident report is a fabrication in order to justify illegal action, and Salinas was not holding the knife at any point. According to the suit, Salinas’ hat fell off his head and the pocketknife flew out of his pocket when he was thrown to the ground. Moments before Salinas was thrown to the ground, bodycam footage shows he was holding his black electronic cigarette in his left hand, the suit says.
“In this case, Mr. Salinas had complied with a request for his identification and had not been told he was being detained or arrested. Then, for no reason, he was slammed face first into the pavement,” Roberts said about the suit. “Cases like these normally go unreported, but if we can stop this behavior now, hopefully we can prevent these officers from eventually escalating their force to the point of causing a death.”
According to the suit, criminal charges were dismissed against Salinas.