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03-24-08, 03:02 PM #1
Federal trial for Austin, Texas Police Officers accused of beating and tasing suspect to begin
Federal court on Monday is set to hear the 2005 case of a man beaten by three Austin police officers. Ramon Hernandez was beaten and shocked with a Taser during a September 2005 arrest for leaving the scene of an accident, a charge that was later dismissed. That following March, two of the officers involved were found not guilty of official oppression.
Only one of the three officers involved in the case still works for the Austin Police Department. Christopher Gray got his job back after serving a 70-day suspension. Officer Joel Follmer was fired, and Brad Heilman resigned.
Yet for Ramon Hernandez, his family and attorneys, the case was never over. They have waited nearly three years for this civil trial. Video from a dashboard camera showed Ramon Hernandez as he was handcuffed, with his face in an ant bed, and shocked with a Taser 11 times. He was also kicked and punched more than a dozen times.
"I forgive them for what they did in my heart, and with my faith, we all make mistakes, we're all human," Hernandez said.
Yet as he sat with his attorneys Friday, Hernandez said he still wants justice to hold them responsible for their actions.
"Civil rights trials define what is acceptable in our community," said Amber Vazquez Bode, attorney for Hernandez. "They're here to draw the line in the sand and say this is what we accept from our police officers, and this is what we don't."
After his acquittal in 2006 on official oppression charges, Gray spoke out for the first time.
"We're sworn to protect the citizens of Austin, and that's what we did," Gray said in April 2006. "I have no regrets. Faced with the same situation, I would do what I have to all over again."
From the beginning, the officers said the real story is what cannot be seen on the tape: Hernandez was resisting arrest and trying to grab one of their guns.
"When this case went to trial the first time, there were a lot of smoke and mirrors created the perception that Ramon was a danger that he never really was," said Tim Flocos, attorney for Hernandez. "Their over-aggressive behavior once he was handcuffed and once he was under control, is what's at issue here."
A jury will decide if the officers violated Hernandez's civil rights.
Phone calls made Friday to the attorney for Heilman, Gray and Follner were not returned.
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