A man has accused Round Rock police officers of illegally arresting him after he stopped in a hotel parking lot to try to feed a stray cat, according to a federal lawsuit.
Lionel Matthew Alexander, 28, said Round Rock police officers, curious about his activities, pulled him out of his car, threw him to the ground and injured his mouth before taking him to the Williamson County Jail in 2013, the lawsuit says.
Alexander was initially charged with resisting arrest but was never prosecuted, according to Williamson County court records.
Alexander filed a complaint with the police department, but an internal investigation found that the action of one of the officers involved, officer Marciano Garza, “was within the policy of the Round Rock Police Department,” the lawsuit says.
“The city of Round Rock’s unconstitutional policy includes allowing police officers to detain individuals based on mere curiosity or a ‘hunch’ that does not satisfy the standard of reasonable suspicion required by law,” the lawsuit says.
The suit was filed Friday against the city of Round Rock and various Round Rock police officers, including Garza, Sgt. Greg Brunson, Sgt. Sampson Connell and officer Tracy Staggs.
Alexander declined to comment Monday. His attorney did not immediately return a request for comment. The city of Round Rock and the Round Rock Police Department both declined to comment because of the pending litigation.
Alexander, according to the lawsuit, was staying at the Extended Stay Hotel at 555 Interstate 35 South in Round Rock on Sept. 26, 2013. The lawsuit says Alexander, who lives in Missouri, loves animals but cannot have pets due to job obligations, so he frequently feeds stray cats.
He had returned from a trip to the grocery store when he saw a stray cat in his hotel parking lot, according to the lawsuit. He got out of his car but couldn’t find the cat, so he returned to his vehicle to find a closer parking spot to his room, it says.
As he was moving his car, a police car that was also in the parking lot stopped him, the lawsuit says. Garza got out of the patrol car and told Alexander “that he pulled him over because he was curious as to what he was doing,” the court filings say.
Alexander gave Garza his driver’s license, according to the lawsuit, but told Garza that he was not going to answer any questions.
Garza immediately radioed for backup officers, “citing noncompliance,” the lawsuit says. When the other officers arrived, Garza asked Alexander to get out of his car, it says.
Alexander asked Garza why he wanted him to get out of the car, and Garza replied, “Because I asked you to,” the lawsuit says.
Alexander was in the middle of saying that he didn’t think he was legally required to do so, the lawsuit says, when Garza and other officers pulled him out of the car and pinned him on the ground.
“His face was mashed into the concrete,” according to the court filings. Alexander, who did not resist, felt at least three officers on top of him, according to the suit.
After the officers handcuffed Alexander and placed him on a curb, the lawsuit says, Garza asked Alexander, “Are you ready to talk to me now?”
Alexander refused but uttered a profanity, the documents say. Garza told Alexander that he was under arrest “for uttering an expletive where the public could hear him, which he (Garza) asserted was a violation of the disorderly conduct statute,” the lawsuit says.
Officers then illegally searched Alexander and his car, according to the lawsuit, but found nothing suspicious.
Alexander spent the night in the Williamson County Jail before being released the next day, according to jail records.
Alexander has evidence of three other times when Round Rock police “committed constitutional violations” similar to his case, the lawsuit says.