WACO — A federal lawsuit recently filed in Waco against the city of Temple, the Temple Police Department and two Temple Police officers, alleges that officers on Jan. 25, 2015, ran over a juvenile with a patrol car during a foot chase.
A trial by jury was requested by Robert Ranco, attorney with the Carlson Law Firm.
The city received a copy of the complaint Friday, Temple City Attorney Kayla Landeros said. The complaint was forwarded to the Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool for assignment to a law firm to provide a defense on behalf of the city and the officers.
The assigned law firm and the city attorney's office will work together on the case, Landeros said.
Temple Police Officers Bret McCune and Carmen DeCruz weren’t disciplined for any actions related to the incident because the officers’ actions didn’t show intentional contact, Landeros said.
The lawsuit alleges that McCune intentionally ran over a juvenile and left the juvenile pinned underneath the running patrol car for more than 10 minutes, causing the juvenile to have third-degree burns on his torso, thighs and pelvic area from the engine heat.
Temple Fire & Rescue lifted the vehicle off the juvenile, Robert Ranco, the attorney representing the family, said.
“This case is particularly egregious and horrifying due to the nature of the injuries and the callousness of the officers’ behavior at the scene,” Ranco said. “How can you run over a kid, then leave him under the car — refusing to move the vehicle off of him or even turn the car off — while the child’s flesh is burning underneath the engine for more than ten minutes?”
The juvenile, who was not identified because of his age, was a suspect in a home invasion burglary in the 1200 block of West Avenue E. Suspects ran away and officers chased them.
It was proven that the juvenile was one of those involved in the home invasion. The criminal side of the case was taken care of and had nothing to do with this lawsuit, Ranco said.
“He was involved in some malfeasance,” Ranco said.
Court documents said that McCune intentionally ran over the juvenile.
DeCruz responded to the home invasion call and saw a male in front of the residence who reportedly ran away with another male when she told him to stop, the complaint said. DeCruz chased both males, and McCune pursued them in his patrol car into an alley on Avenue E.
The juvenile was pinned face up under the middle of the police car, not underneath the tires. He wasn’t able to move, even though he was being burned, the complaint said.
The Temple Police Department issued a news release on the incident involving three juveniles after it reportedly happened, according to a Telegram article published on Jan. 27, 2015. The trapped juvenile was taken to Scott & White Medical Center-Temple before his transfer to a San Antonio hospital for treatment for burns.
The complaint said that emergency workers smelled the juvenile’s burning flesh, but McCune and DeCruz didn’t move the vehicle or turn it off.
The complaint states that the city of Temple didn’t have adequate policies for use of force and “has a history of acquiescence related to the use of force.”
Other issues the complaint pointed to were:
• The failure to provide training regarding the pursuit of suspects on foot while using a car.
• The failure to provide training to McCune and DeCruz on the safest way to respond to someone trapped under a vehicle.
• The failure to provide training to DeCruz regarding her duty to intervene in another officer’s excessive use of force or deliberate indifferent act.
The lawsuit said that McCune’s failure to turn off the vehicle was an excessive use of force and that he intentionally ran over the juvenile to quickly end the chase.
“No reasonable officer would have left the vehicle on while it was pinning a suspect,” the lawsuit read.
DeCruz didn’t turn the patrol vehicle off or tell McCune to do that, the complaint said. The lawsuit also charges her with an excessive use of force that caused deliberate harm to the juvenile.
The complaint also suggested that McCune was negligent because he didn’t properly look out for the juvenile in the dark and didn’t know he’d run over him until sometime after the boy was pinned underneath his car.
The lawsuit seeks to recover medical expenses and to compensate the juvenile and his family for damages related to his physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and disfigurement, both in the past and future, and his previous physical impairment. Any amount received would also include attorney fees.
Ranco said Monday that the family’s medical bills so far exceed $300,000, which included a month’s stay at the San Antonio burn unit.
The juvenile has “horrible scarring” and numbness in parts of his body, Ranco said.
“Leaving him (the juvenile) there was the most egregious part of all this,” Ranco said.
DeCruz is still employed with the Temple Police Department, but McCune hasn’t worked for the department since March 31, Landeros said.