LOCKHART, Texas (KXAN) – A Central Texas man says home surveillance video was the only thing that kept him out of prison after deputies showed up one night and arrested him. Now he’s hoping for vindication through the courts via a civil lawsuit.
The complaint contends not only did they arrest Lawrence Faulkenberry, police were untruthful in their official reporting of the incident. At the time, they were responding to a call from the man’s son that his dad was drunk and waving a gun around.
The way Lawrence Faulkenberry tells it, a family argument had broken the peace and quiet of a Caldwell County evening two Januarys ago. The father of the teenager, Faulkenberry says he went outside to cool off.
“I sat out here another 20 minutes or so and I was going to go in and make dinner.” That was just as two deputies and a sergeant from the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office turned up.
“I turned off the light and saw flashlights down the drive,” Faulkenberry recalls, adding he had left the chain barricade to his property unlatched and on the ground.
Faulkenberry’s own surveillance video shows the lawmen approach on foot, their guns drawn.
He stood stock-still except to raise his hands in the air. The video is silent but Faulkenberry says a sergeant ordered him to turn around so handcuffs could be put on.
Then came a sudden takedown.
“I turned my head to ask about a warrant and that’s when I heard ‘2, 1’ and then the leg sweep, the tackle and punching.”
Reading the arrest report from that night, Deputy Michael Taylor wrote:
I observed Lawrence Faulkenberry push Sgt. Yost with the left side of his body and elbow into a tree causing him to fall and injure his left shin.
Even slowed down, in the grainy video it’s hard to see where Faulkenberry might have pushed – and where the sergeant’s leg sweep put everyone off balance.
In his report, Deputy Taylor conclusions were more concrete: I observed Faulkenberry forcefully resist deputies while attempting to lawfully detain him…
Faulkenberry’s criminal record shows no violent issues and he’s been out of trouble for more than a decade. Deputies charged Faulkenberry with:
- Felony Assault on a Public Servant
- Resisting Arrest – a Class A Misdemeanor
- Aggravated Assault with a Firearm
Deputies never recovered a handgun — Faulkenberry says he doesn’t own one.
Court records show bond was set at: $807,500.
Sheriff Daniel Law tells KXAN he spoke to the deputies about how they could have handled the situation better.
“I don’t know why they approached him, [knowing he might have a gun], but I wasn’t there,” he said.
But he says in his view, nothing rose to the level of a suspension or firing. An email from the County’s Assistant DA Jordan Powell confirms the deputy who wrote the incident report received no formal discipline.
“I called my attorney,” says Faulkenberry. “I told him ‘I didn’t do it.’ He’s like ‘there’s three officers who say you did. You got proof?’ I was like ‘yeah, I got a video.’
After ten days locked up at the Caldwell County Jail, Faulkenberry’s lawyer says a court magistrate saw the video and dropped the bond. KXAN confirmed the DA’s office declined to prosecute and Faulkenberry returned home. His teenaged son had spent the week and a half at a friend’s house.
Faulkenberry’s lawsuit reads in part,
[Deputy] Taylor swore under oath that Plaintiff assaulted [Sgt] Yost knowing that Yost was the one who actually attacked Plaintiff and attempted to throw him to the ground without provocation.
The suit goes on to contend: Taylor filled out false affidavits in support of each of these charges, thereby himself committing at least two counts of aggravated perjury…
Sheriff Law wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit although the County’s legal response filed in court denies Faulkenberry’s allegations and asserts the deputies “were acting within the scope of their duties, “that their conduct was “lawful, reasonable and necessary in light of all attendant circumstances” and that they qualify for immunity from prosecution.
The case has yet to be head in court.
“If there wasn’t video there, what do you think the outcome would have been?” asked KXAN’s Robert Maxwell.
Faulkenberry: “I’d be in prison. You wouldn’t be talking to me. You never would have heard my name.”
Lawrence Faulkenberry’s lawsuit asks for damages for civil rights violations and for humiliation he says went through after the local newspaper reported the initial heavy bond and criminal charges – the ones that were dismissed.
Other wrongful arrest lawsuits are few
KXAN looked into other recent wrongful arrest lawsuits naming the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office.
One in 2010 named the same sergeant from Faulkenberry’s arrest.
In that case, deputies accused Eric Marino of stealing two trailers found on his property and charged him with theft and engaging in organized criminal activity. Marino’s suit claimed he had receipts for the trailers in his home but deputies would not let him go inside and get them.
He spent 29 days in jail before being released. The subsequent lawsuit against Sheriff Law, Sgt. Yost and three deputies didn’t go Marino’s way though. A Federal Judge dismissed the claim after what Marino’s former attorney called a legal technicality.
KXAN also combed through other recent incidents in Caldwell County involving assault on an officer. Indicted cases include cases where people pushed, kicked or struck deputies responding to domestic violence calls, assisting Child Protective Services, or jail assaults on county corrections officers, records KXAN requested show.
Others rose to more immediate threats to a deputy’s life like an incident in February 2013 where a man shot rounds into a deputy’s vehicle. Records show Hays County SWAT took that man Gilbert Montoya into custody. He was charged with attempted murder on a law enforcement officer.