A Donna police sergeant who allegedly fired pepper spray on a 17-year-old jail inmate last week was arrested on brutality charges by Hidalgo County Sheriff’s deputies Monday evening.
The alleged attack on Donna High School student Jonathan Morales occurred at the city police department’s holding cell last week.
Donna city officials turned over surveillance video of the attack to Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño.
Sheriff’s investigators arrested the police sergeant on three class A misdemeanor counts — official oppression, assault and violating the civil rights of a person in custody. Officials refused to release the arrested sergeant’s identity pending an arraignment scheduled for this morning.
Donna school district police arrested the student last week for fighting on the high school campus, Treviño said. School district police turned the teen over to the city police department to be kept in its holding cell pending an arraignment.
The student apparently took a Styrofoam cup and covered the surveillance camera in the holding cell, the sheriff said.
That prompted the police sergeant to go in and remove the cup. Investigators believe the teen was “mouthing off” with the sergeant, but did not physically threaten him.
“He was being passive physically, but verbally was a nuisance,” the sheriff said.
Surveillance footage shows the sergeant spraying the teen in the face with pepper spray and leaving him “there to fend off for himself,” Treviño said.
Police regularly use pepper spray to combat rowdy suspects, but only when they are physical threats, the sheriff said. And after the suspect is subdued, it is the officer’s job to reduce the damage caused from the pepper spray on the face.
“The kid is jumping around, wiping his eyes trying to clean his eyes off, starts kicking on the door — it’s all obviously out of frustration because he can’t help.” the sheriff said. “The inmate doesn’t find any sort of relief for his pain, so he walks over to the toilet commode and reaches in and gets water and washes his face with it.”
Donna Police Chief Ruben “Ram” De Leon deferred comment to Treviño on the matter. Besides the criminal investigation, the sheriff’s public integrity unit is also working on an administrative investigation on the sergeant.
“In my opinion, that is probably one of the most egregious forms of police brutality I’ve ever witnessed,” Treviño said.
Tags: caught on tape, cctv, security camera, police brutality, cop arrested, pepper spraying teen, jail, cell
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