Killeen, TX -- Once again, the Killeen police department is in the news for the way it is treating the citizens—this time a child—it is sworn to protect. Local taxpayers just shelled out $60,000 to pay for the abusive actions of two of Killeen's finest after they were seen on video attacking a gay teen who was the victim of a bullying incident.
According to KWTX, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey C. Manske accepted the settlement filed after the student complained he was brutalized, slammed to the ground during an arrest at 2:55 p.m. April 21, 2016, following an altercation between two students on a Killeen Independent School District bus.
"A body slam is never an approved use of force," the complaint says. "It is not a recognized 'takedown' maneuver under any training provided to Officers Lundt and Frucella."
Although the incident took place in 2016, it only recently became national news when lawyers for J.W. and his family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in Waco's federal court late last year. At the time, the bus driver noticed a fight taking place on her bus. J.W., who students say was being bullied by Travis—in part, because he is reportedly gay—defended himself. The bus driver pulled over, broke up the fight, and then called police to intervene.
Two police officers, Travis Lundt and Stephen Frucella responded.
Upon arrival, the bus driver can be overheard in the security video on the bus telling the police she wants Travis off of her bus and pointed him out to the officers. "I didn't start shit, bitch," yelled J.W. Immediately, Lundt and Frucella grabbed J.W. and jerked him off the bus. Still pointing at Travis, one of the officers tossed J.W., body slamming him on the ground.
While it is understandable that police want to immediately control the chaotic situation, and it may even be logical for them to have removed J.W. from the bus first, why they decided to slam the young boy to the ground is incredulous, to say the least. It seems the police officer not only infringed on the student's right to free speech, but he also injured the boy who was being bullied—not the aggressor.
This is why J.W.'s family sued, according to their lawyer, Robert Ranco. In court documents obtained by KWTX, the lawsuit explained that J.W. was the real victim, and Travis was the aggressor:
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"Travis picked a fight and physically assaulted J.W. in the back of the bus. J.W. attempted to defend himself. The bus driver pulled the bus over and called the police. The driver then separated the boys, bringing J.W. to the front, and leaving Travis in the back of the bus. The fight stopped."
Killeen officers claimed in their report that J.W. assaulted them, and therefore had to be physically restrained in the manner in which he was thrown to the ground. The lawsuit disputes their contention that the officers were assaulted -- so does the video. The suit reads:
"Despite what the officers wrote in the police report, J.W. was not resisting, was not attempting to get away, and was not a threat to the officers or anyone else at the time J.W. was lifted off the ground and body slammed on the hard pavement. He did not threaten the officers or anyone else. J.W. was never given a chance to comply with any order, as no order or instruction was given."
The video corroborated J.W.'s story and the subsequent settlement is proof of it. It shows the officers violently slam J.W. to the ground, much to the viewing pleasure of the bus' occupants, his fellow classmates. Both video and audio evidence appeared to support J.W.'s contention that he was the victim twice in one day—once at the hands of Travis, and another time at the hands of Killeen police.
As TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, police and students simply do not mix well together. Not only are school resource officers often violent when dealing with students in conflict, but they are sometimes the bullies.
Also part of the lawsuit, according to Ranco was a request for an apology. The family simply asked the officers to apologize to the young man they senselessly attacked and injured.
However, the police refused.
"We got a flat refusal," Ranco said.