Man punched, stunned by Hutto officer files lawsuit alleging use of excessive force

Investigations

HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) – Under the cover of a Texas night, two Hutto Police officers quietly parked their patrol cars. The officers turned the corner and snuck along Paige Bend Drive, looking for the smell of burning marijuana.

Neither officer knew exactly where their suspect lived.

The caller told police someone was smoking marijuana and funneling the exhaust out of the garage, according to Hutto police. Despite the detail given, neither officer had any idea which home the smoke was supposedly coming from.

“One of the neighbors is calling, snitching,” Hutto Police Officer Gregory Parris is captured saying on his body camera video. Parris admitted in the recording he “had no idea” which house was the suspected source because the complaining neighbor didn’t “know the exact address,” Parris said in the video.

As the officers slipped along the street, they spotted a man standing at the back of his truck in his friend’s driveway.

Within 30 seconds of walking up on the man, Officer Parris had him pressed against the truck and started searching him.

‘Put your phone down’

The officers’ body camera videos show how dark the street was when the officers happened upon Jeremy Rogers. You can’t see Rogers on the video at first, but you can hear him greeting the officers as they walk toward him.

Rogers was standing at the back of his truck, holding his phone in his hand.

Rogers also had a beer sitting on the bumper of the truck parked on private property in his friend’s driveway. Parris told Rogers why he was there: to find out where the weed smell was coming from.

Rogers told Parris his friend lives at the home and was inside at the time. Rogers offers to call his friend to get him to come outside.

Parris said, “No, don’t call him yet. Put your phone down, put your hands up on the truck real fast.” Rogers replied, “For what?” The following exchange happened next:

Parris: “Because I’m telling you to.”
Rogers: “What did I do wrong?”
Parris: “Dude, don’t do that, put your hands up on the truck, man.”
Alcocer: “Drinking in public.”
Parris: “Yeah, for one. Scoot your feet.”
Rogers: “I’m drinking in the driveway, not in public.”

After Parris searched Rogers, he told him, “You smell like weed right now, man … I can smell it on your shirt.”

Parris asked Rogers for his identification. Rogers thumbed through his wallet for several seconds before telling the officer he didn’t have any identification to show him and put his wallet back into his back pocket. The following exchange happened:

Parris: “Give me your wallet.”
Rogers: “Do you have probable cause?”
Parris: “Yeah, how about you going to jail right now for public intoxication?”
Rogers: “For what? I didn’t step out of the boundaries —”

The Hutto Police video recording showed officers Parris and Alcocer never announced any of the familiar orders heard from officers before they place someone in cuffs: “Put your hands behind your back” or “You’re under arrest.”

‘That’s a nice right hook’

The video shows Parris grab for Rogers’ right hand and the top of his head within seconds of Rogers’ challenge to an allegation he was drinking in public.

Rogers pushed away from Parris in the video. Rogers claims he did so to defend himself from being assaulted by the officer.

Officer Parris moved back away from Rogers and drove his right fist into the right-hand side of Rogers’ face. The camera audio picked up the sound of the loud thud as Rogers’ head slammed into the tailgate of his Dodge truck. His body bounced off the bumper and trailer hitch on his way down to the ground.

“Don’t f—ing push on me,” Parris said has he lunges back on top of Rogers to roll him over.

“I didn’t push on you, dude,” Rogers responded.

The punch is recorded from two separate angles: one from Parris’ body camera, the other from Alcocer’s camera. It showed Parris climb on top of Rogers in an apparent attempt to put him in handcuffs and punch Rogers at least once more on the ground.

Rogers screamed at Parris to get off him as the officer sat on top of Rogers’ body while the two were still on the ground. “Get the f— off me! Get the f— off me,” Rogers screamed at the officer.

Parris grabs his radio, “County, we got one fighting.”

“I’m not fighting! I’m not fighting — get off me! What the f—?!” Rogers screamed on the video.

“You’re going to get tased. Turn over on your stomach — turn over on your stomach. You’re going to get tased,” Parris shouted in response.

“Hands behind your back,” Parris then yelled at Rogers. That was the first time Officer Parris gave Rogers an order to submit to an arrest.

The people who live at the Paige Bend home asked not to be identified, but said Rogers was there watching a ball game and walked outside to talk with his girlfriend on the phone just minutes before they heard him screaming outside.

The body camera video shows Hutto Police Officer Gregory Parris’ sight light of this Taser pointing at Jeremy Rogers. Parris used the stun device on Rogers, but the cartridge that records its use was never found, according to the lawsuit.

The screams got louder when Parris fired his taser into Rogers while the two were down on the ground. Rogers can be heard sobbing in the video.

Office Alcocer’s body camera doesn’t clearly show Alcocer physically intervene during the arrest, despite standing only inches away from Parris as he radioed into dispatch that he “had one fighting.” The officers’ reports do indicate that Alcocer was able to put a handcuff on Rogers during the struggle.

Emergency Medical Services units later showed up on the scene and treated Rogers’ head wound. Medics told Parris the jail likely wouldn’t take Rogers because of his injuries and suggested the officer accompany Rogers to the hospital to have his ear sewn up.

As medics started to load Rogers into the ambulance, he told Parris, “I got to admit that’s a nice right hook though.”

Parris’ body camera showed he admitted to a man inside the hospital —who appears to be a doctor — that he punched Rogers at least twice and took him to the ground. The hospital staffer made a joke about the incident while the video shows a Hutto officer identified as C. Carpenter laughing about the staffer’s joke.

Federal lawsuit filed

The City of Hutto and Officer Gregory Parris were served with a federal lawsuit in February — nine months after Rogers’ arrest. The lawsuit accused Parris of using excessive force and making a false arrest.

In April, Rogers’ legal team amended the initial lawsuit to include Hutto Officer Jamie Alcocer as a defendant. The suit accuses Parris and Alcocer of writing “false information” into their reports to further the prosecution against Rogers.

In summarizing the allegations against Alcocer, Rogers’ attorney wrote into the lawsuit, “…she (Alcocer) likewise knew of the constitutional violations occurring when she chose to do nothing to assist Jeremy. Instead, she participated in the arrest and prosecution of Jeremy.”

Hutto Police Officer Jamie Alcocer is identified in the video and the lawsuit as Officer Gregory Parris’ direct supervisor. Alcocer was by Parris’ side during the entire encounter with Jeremy Rogers.

On June 1, 2018, Parris filed public intoxication, felony assault on an officer and resisting arrest charges against Rogers. Prosecutors dismissed all three charges in July 2018. The dismissal, signed by Williamson County Assistant County Attorney Brandon Dakroub, lists the reason for the dismissal as: “In the interest of justice.” The dismissal form does not include any other reason for prosecutors dropping the charges.

The federal lawsuit paints a picture of Officer Parris as a bully. Rogers’ attorney, Dean Malone, described Parris as an officer “impressed with his power as an armed police officer,” and as a “powerful police officer” who was “intoxicated by his power as a police officer.”

The filing also accuses Parris of losing a key piece of evidence in the case: the taser cartridge. “Officer Parris knows that the Taser cartridge would be evidence and should have been secured, kept, and likely tagged. Thus, to the extent Officer Parris disposed of or failed to secure any Taser evidence related to this case, the court should provide an appropriate spoliation remedy,” the lawsuit said.

The State’s motion to dismiss the charges against Jeremy Rogers

The alleged assault left Rogers with what his lawyer described as a “closed head injury.” Rogers, “indicates that he has been experiencing twitching of the right upper eyelid since approximately June 13, 2018. He also indicates that he has issues with his vision – a problem with downward gaze. He also feels a lump in the right upper eyelid, outer aspect,” the lawsuit stated.

Rogers’ attorney contends in the lawsuit that his client was innocent of each of the charges Parris and Alcocer tried to have him prosecuted for at the time of his arrest.

The federal court docket shows Rogers and the city tried to settle the case in June but could not reach an agreement then. Both sides met again on Sept. 18 to work out another potential settlement, according to the case file.

Rogers’ attorney confirmed to KXAN no settlement was reached in the Sept. 18 mediation. The case is set for a jury trial in September 2020 if a settlement isn’t reached before then.

Officer Parris indicted

On May 2, 2019, the Williamson County grand jury indicted Hutto police Officer Gregory Parris on one count of assault with bodily injury and one count of official oppression. Both charges came as a result of a Texas Rangers investigation into Jeremy Rogers’ May 2018 arrest.

Days later, on May 6, Parris walked into the Williamson County jail to have his mugshot and fingerprints taken and to be formally charged with two counts of abusing his power as a Hutto police officer. County jail records show Parris was released the same day.

Officer Gregory Parris mugshot taken May 6, 2019. (Credit: Williamson County jail)

Parris wrote in his report that when he “informed the male (Rogers) he was under arrest” and when Parris “began to turn him around to affect” the arrest, Rogers “quickly and violently shoved me in my chest partially knocking me off balance and causing pain in my chest.”

“I then struck the male (Rogers) with a hard hand technique 1 time which initially proved effective causing the male subject to lose balance and start to fall to the ground,” Parris wrote in a formal criminal complaint against Rogers.

Office Parris claimed in the report that Rogers “continued resisting” the arrest by “flailing his arms and trying to move away from me.” Parris wrote that he hit Rogers a second time which “aided me in placing the male onto the ground.” Parris wrote that Rogers continued “to push away from me while laying on his back” while the two were on the ground.”

Hutto Police Chief Paul Hall agreed to interview with KXAN for this report under one condition: he would not answer any questions regarding any of the allegations against either officer. Hall said he would discuss his department’s body camera and internal disciplinary policies.

When asked about the department’s process when an officer is charged with a crime, Hall would not answer the question directly.

“Like I said, we’re going to address on a case-by-case situation, so — and I know where you’re going with this, and I’m not going to address that because you’re trying to lead me into an ongoing investigation,” Hall said.

“We’re just trying to understand why a situation that’s just like this, an officer is still — months later — on the force in a paid status with an indictment hanging over his head. We’re trying to understand what that policy is,” KXAN Investigative Reporter Jody Barr explained to the chief.

“We’re not going to discuss that investigation — that’s an ongoing investigation,” Hall replied.

Hutto Police Chief Paul Hall agreed to interview with KXAN, but Hall would not talk about the allegations against his two officers, citing “pending litigation” as the reason.

KXAN then posed questions to Hall in the form of hypothetical scenarios to try to understand what the department does when an officer is charged with a crime.

“If you want to go with your hypothetical,” Hall said, “All use of force requires review by the sergeant, lieutenant, assistant chief and myself. And then, we discuss the use of force. If we believe the use of force to be within the law, then no action is taken.”

The city confirmed Officer Gregory Parris has been on paid leave at least since his indictment in May. The chief indicated his department performed an internal investigation into the allegations against Parris, but Hall would not say what the findings were.

We filed an formal request under the Texas Public Information Act to see Parris and Alcocer’s personnel files to find out if a formal complaint was filed with the department and whether either was disciplined —or cleared — in the investigation. The city asked the Texas Attorney General to keep those records secret.

The attorney general’s office could issue a ruling on that decision in the next 30 days.

“Too often we look at the one bad incident out of the 19,000 calls for service — 19,000 contacts — and we pick that one thing that’s less that 110001111%, so I want people to keep that in mind,” Hall said in defense of his department.

“There’s video, there’s an indictment in the case, there are allegations in a civil lawsuit — you believe those three things together may not tell the complete story?” Barr asked Hall.

“I believe it does not tell the complete story. There is another side here,” Hall said.

The Williamson County District Attorney’s Office hired Houston attorney Julian Ramirez as a special prosecutor to handle the case. Ramirez’s biography page in the Texas Bar directory shows he is a criminal attorney operating a private practice.

KXAN asked Officer Gregory Parris and Officer Jamie Alcocer for interviews for this report. Neither officer has responded to those requests. Answers to the federal lawsuit filed on their behalf deny the allegations against the officers.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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