An excessive force lawsuit against several Round Rock police officers is back in court after it was initially dismissed.
A judge ruled Tuesday to reinstate three parts of a 2015 lawsuit in which the plaintiff, Lionel Alexander, had sued the city of Round Rock and four named Round Rock police officers.
A district court had previously granted the city of Round Rock’s request to dismiss all of Alexander’s claims. The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday to reverse that dismissal. The case will now return to district court to be decided.
Alexander is accusing the officers of using excessive force and violating his rights as laid out in the Texas Constitution when they arrested him in September 2013.
Alexander had stopped in a hotel parking lot to try to feed a stray cat when he encountered Round Rock police officer Marciano Garza and three others, who were curious about his activities. Alexander alleges that officers pulled him out of his car, threw him to the ground and injured his mouth before being taken to Williamson County Jail.
Alexander was initially charged with resisting arrest but was never prosecuted, according to Williamson County court records.
“On the facts alleged, we conclude that the officers’ use of force was objectively unreasonable,” the appeals court wrote. “Nothing in Alexander’s statements or actions indicated that he posed any risk of harm to the officers. Nor did he pose any flight risk – indeed, he stayed in his vehicle and made no attempt to leave while Garza awaited backup. Perhaps Alexander’s refusal to exit his vehicle on Garza’s command warranted physical removal from the car, but it did not warrant throwing Alexander onto the ground, kneeing him in the back and pushing his face into the concrete.”
When the case returns to court, the court may ultimately conclude that Alexander’s constitutional rights were not violated, the appeals court wrote. But, based on the facts alleged, the case should not be automatically dismissed, the ruling said.
"We have only heard one side of the story,” the appeals court wrote. “After discovery is complete, the district court may well correctly determine that none of Alexander’s claims can survive summary judgment.”