Judge dismisses part of Austin lawsuit over violent arrest for traffic stop

Texas State Capitol Building, Austin, Texas. (AP Stock)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) 10/15 — A federal judge has dismissed — at least for now — a portion of a lawsuit filed by a black woman who sued Texas’ capital city after being thrown to the ground by a white police officer during a traffic stop last year.

In her civil complaint, Breaion King named the city of Austin and officer Bryan Richter as defendants, but U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin said in an order filed Friday that King’s claims against the city were “without specific factual allegations.” He gave King the option to refile, and her attorney, Erica Grigg, said she plans to do so as soon as possible.

Sparks left intact the portion of the lawsuit against Richter alleging the use of excessive force.

King, an elementary school teacher, sued the city in August, seeking damages that “most probably” exceed $1 million. She was arrested after being stopped for speeding and thrown to the ground in July 2015.

Her case garnered national attention a year later, after patrol car video was released showing the arrest and another officer subsequently telling King that blacks have “violent tendencies.”

Police Chief Art Acevedo publicly apologized and launched departmental investigations. But Grigg said previously that when King subsequently contacted city leaders to have larger discussions about her arrest, she got little response — prompting the lawsuit.

Sparks wrote in his order that King “has the option to file an amended complaint but is cautioned that any similar complaint without specific factual allegations will be dismissed and could be with prejudice and costs taxed to the plaintiff.”

In response, Grigg said: “Judge Sparks is instructing us that we must be more specific in our allegation against the city of Austin. We plan to amend our complaint to address his concerns.”

Also Friday, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV reported that the city had hired attorney Charles Frigerio to represent Richter, who arrested King, saying state law requires them to provide a legal defense for Richter in such cases.

Frigerio said Richter used a reasonable amount of force during the arrest. “King’s non-compliance was the sole proximate cause of the incident in question,” Frigerio told the newspaper and KVUE.

Richter nearly threw King into an adjacent truck in the parking lot of a Wendy’s after pulling her over for going 15 mph over the speed limit around lunchtime, police footage showed. Following a struggle, King was handcuffed and driven to jail by officer Patrick Spradlin, who told her that “I don’t blame” whites for being afraid because of violence in the black community.

Richter won’t be disciplined because police officials only learned about it after a 180-day deadline from the time an incident occurred to discipline an officer.


Posted in: Lawsuits, Racial Issues, Use of Force

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