According to TDT News, The Temple Police Department will promote two officers to the rank of corporal Thursday — one of whom is an officer who was initially fired for his role in breaking a teenage boy’s collarbone in 2013.
On March 18, 2013, Officer Daniel Amaya and another Temple officer broke the collarbone of 15-year-old Lorenzo Martinez during what was later determined to be an unwarranted arrest.
On video Amaya is seen body slamming a 15-year old Latino kid that was falsely accused of shoplifting who was watching the arrest of two others actually being charged with shoplifting. When the officers demanded that Lorenzo Martinez, the 15-year old, come to them he began walking away. He was slammed to the ground and handcuffed (injuring his shoulder) then brought into the WalMart security office. At one point, Martinez spits on the ground and they demand he clean it up. When he refused, Officers Amaya and Jeremy Bales again slam him on the ground and use his body to clean up the spit, reportedly breaking Martinez's collar bone in the process. [MORE]
During Amaya’s civil service disciplinary hearing, several police officials said they believed the takedown of the teen was excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary.
Deputy Police Chief Allen Teston took the stand during Amaya’s hearing and said, “My overall impression of Amaya is that he was trying not to implicate himself. He took actions to withhold information on what happened on March 18. He provided some information but withheld the information about what happened in the loss prevention office. … He overtly made a decision not to report it,” Teston said.
Teston also said, “In my opinion his acts were intentional omission and not accidental. Amaya was uniquely motivated not to record or report it.”
An internal Temple Police Department investigation said Amaya violated many general orders and policies.
Qualifications for promotion
The Telegram asked Temple Police Chief Floyd Mitchell and City Manager Brynn Myers how Amaya qualified for a promotion after his past issues.
An explanation was received Wednesday from Myers. The Temple Police Department is governed by Chapter 143 of the Texas Local Government Code, and that statute covers the Civil Service system, Myers said. That system stipulates the decision-making process for things like hiring, promotions and disciplinary actions.
In state law, there is a specific process that includes indefinite suspensions for police officers, and the city of Temple has to follow that law, Myers said.
Although Amaya was indefinitely suspended in 2013, he appealed that action and won — and was reinstated to the Temple department.
“Promotions in the police department are based on scores from written examinations and assessment centers, with points added for seniority and education,” Myers said. “Mr. Amaya followed the promotion process laid out in state law and was eligible for promotion based on his scores from the last corporal exam. The state law establishes eligibility for promotion and we must follow that law.”
The person with the highest score on the list is promoted when there is a vacancy. Officers can’t be kept from being promoted because of disciplinary decisions if those decisions aren’t upheld by a hearing examiner, Myers said.
The Temple Police Department didn’t release the names of the officers involved in the Martinez case until almost five months later.
The arrest report also wasn’t with other daily incident reports released to the media, and the spokesman at that time, Cpl. Christopher Wilcox, said he didn’t know why it was missing.
The Telegram made several open records requests for the case records, but the city asked the Texas Attorney General’s office to deny the request. The Attorney General’s office ruled twice that the documents had to be released.
The city agreed in March 2014 to make the documents available — months after the Telegram’s Nov. 14, 2013, open records request.
The ruling said the documents had to be released because the city didn’t comply with some requirements in the Government Code. The city of Temple requested an appeal, saying the information was part of an officer’s personnel file that couldn’t be released to the public. Once again, the Attorney General’s office said the city must release the information or go to court.
Use of excessive force
The officers did a takedown on the handcuffed Martinez in the loss prevention office at Walmart on South 31st Street. The teen was taken into custody on the premise he was involved in theft and criminal mischief. One reason for the takedown allegedly was because Martinez spit on the floor and refused to clean it up. Martinez was not charged with any wrongdoing.
Temple Police officials said they didn’t know anything about the incident until the Telegram published an article based on an interview with Martinez’s mother.
Several officers were present during the incident, but didn’t record the episode. None of the officers made a written report or told their supervisors about it. Each of the officers received some form of disciplinary action.
In addition to being given an indefinite suspension from his job, Amaya was investigated by the Texas Rangers and Temple Police.
The former Texas Ranger in charge of the investigation, Marcus Hilton, said Amaya’s omissions were intentional and criminal.
A Bell County grand jury no-billed the case in October 2013.
The appeal, lawsuit
Amaya appealed his suspension and testified at his hearing. After watching the video, Amaya agreed force was used.
An independent hearing examiner in August 2014 heard Amaya’s appeal and ruled he had to be reinstated and reimbursed for his lost wages and benefits — except for a 15-day disciplinary suspension that replaced the indefinite suspension given by Smith.
The city of Temple didn’t appeal the ruling because it didn’t have sufficient grounds for an appeal.
A civil lawsuit was filed in May 2014 against the city of Temple and the officers by attorney David Fernandez Jr., who represented Elsa Martinez and her son.
A U.S. district judge in February 2015 awarded the mother and son a $42,500 settlement, which was paid by the city’s insurance company. The settlement released Amaya, the other officer, the city of Temple, the mayor, City Council members, police chief and any and all officers from any responsibility.