Two Fort Worth police officers are charged with using excessive force against a man who was beaten on the sidewalk outside a bar in downtown Fort Worth in 2020, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Northern District of the Texas-Fort Worth division, officers hit Cesar Salinas with his face first on the sidewalk without justification.
The Fort Worth Police Department confirmed that the two officers are currently with the department, but referred questions about the lawsuit to the city attorney. City attorney Leann Guzman said the city has no comment on the lawsuit, other than that the city has not yet served in this lawsuit.
The suit lists the two officers as the only suspects. Neither the Fort Worth Police Department nor the City of Fort Worth are listed as suspects.
“This is not a case where someone was shot or killed,” said James Roberts, one of Salinas’ attorneys at Scott H. Palmer, PC. “Police violence, however, encompasses all levels of unwarranted violence. To stop civil rights violations and hold officers accountable for their actions, we need to shed light on all civil rights violations — not just those that result in death.”
Accusation of excessive force
Two officers, identified in the lawsuit as Agents Teresa Torres and Steve Loud, were investigating a complaint from a woman who said she had been groped outside a bar by an unknown Hispanic man, the suit says. Salinas was playing pool in a downtown bar, according to the suit, when he stepped outside to smoke an electronic cigarette.
Loud came up behind Salinas and asked to speak to him, the suit says. Loud asked for Salinas’ identification and Salinas gave him his wallet. According to the charges, Salinas was “alarmed that he was suddenly accosted by (Loud)” and pulled out his phone and called his friend, who was in the bar.
Loud asked Salinas to walk to the police car, but did not tell him why, according to the charges. Salinas said no, and that he would “stand where they were and wait,” adding that he “wasn’t even running, I’m not even resisting.”
Torres approached Salinas, and Loud told her that Salinas or another man had groped a woman, but the woman had not identified who it was at the time, according to the suit. He also told Torres that Salinas refused to be identified, the suit says, despite Salinas handing over his identification.
Torres asked Salinas for his name, and Salinas told her that 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 his electronic cigarette in the other, according to screenshots in the lawsuit from the officers’ bodycam footage.
Torres said, “I’ll take over,” and grabbed Salinas’ phone without warning, according to the indictment. She repeatedly asked Salinas what his name was and tugged at his phone, he said. Salinas held his phone and Torres said “stop, stop,” the suit says.
Torres swung Salinas to the right in a twisting motion and Loud grabbed Salinas’ left hand and arm, the suit says. The officers then “smashed (Salinas) into the ground face first, causing (Salinas’) face to hit the hard pavement.”
Salinas’ face began to bleed and officers put a spit mask over his face – a mask primarily used to prevent someone from spitting or biting officers. In a screenshot in the lawsuit, Salinas’ face is covered in a white mask and wet blood covers about half of the cloth.
Officers wrote in an incident report of Salinas’s arrest that as he lay on the ground, officers noticed he was holding a pocketknife in his left hand. A screenshot from the bodycam video shows the folded green knife on the sidewalk next to Salinas.
The indictment says the officers’ incident report is a fabrication to justify illegal action, and Salinas did not hold the knife at any point. According to the suit, Salinas’ hat fell off his head and the pocket knife flew out of his pocket when he was thrown to the ground. Just 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 that he was being held or arrested. Then, for no reason, he got hit in the face first against the sidewalk,” Roberts said of the suit. “Cases like this normally go unreported, but if we can stop this behavior now, hopefully we can prevent these agents from eventually escalating their power to the point where they cause death.”
According to the lawsuit, the criminal charges against Salinas were dismissed.