WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The woman who was assaulted by a former Williamson County deputy during a domestic violence call in 2019 is now suing both the man and the county.
The lawsuit stems back to an incident on Sept. 21, 2019, when former WilCo deputy Lorenzo Hernandez responded to the apartment of the victim — who we’ll call “Amanda” — where her boyfriend was reportedly assaulting her, including choking her to the point of unconsciousness.
When deputies questioned Amanda about what happened, they say she refused to answer questions and assured them that “nothing happened.” According to Amanda’s lawsuit, she’d experienced years of abuse during the relationship and didn’t trust Williamson County deputies after previous encounters in the past.
Amanda says she told one of the responding deputies (not Hernandez) that she didn’t want to press charges and he allowed her to back insider her apartment. But when Deputy Hernandez arrived moments later, body-worn camera footage shows him asking to perform an apartment search, and when refused, grabbing her by the chin/throat and pushing her head against a wall.
Footage shows Hernandez taking Amanda down the ground, where she was handcuffed, while, according to her lawsuit, she was pleading: “Please let me get up. You’re hurting me.”
Amanda can also be seen being held down on the ground and handcuffed by Hernandez.
Against her will, Amanda was detained outside while Hernandez and another deputy searched her apartment, reportedly looking for her boyfriend.
“We don’t get your cooperation, that is what happens. All this screaming and all this [expletive] does not make us stop,” Hernandez can be heard saying near the video’s end.
Following the incident, an internal investigation by WCSO was performed and Hernandez was suspended for one day. Two months later, he was later promoted to detective by former WCSO Sheriff Robert Chody.
Thirty-seven-year-old Hernandez, of Cedar Park, resigned once Chody lost a bid for re-election. Hernandez was eventually arrested and charged with assault and official oppression.
In regard to Williamson County, the lawsuit alleges the sheriff’s office allowed Hernandez to perform his actions by inadequate vetting and training of employees and encouraging deputies to pursue use-of-force to “make good TV” for the A&E reality show “Live PD,” which WCSO was previously featured on.
Additionally, the lawsuit mentions a rumored “WilCo Bad-ss Award,” which the office once reportedly gave to deputies for employing “good” use-of-force.
In an interview with KXAN in May, Hernandez said that while nothing he did during the incident was criminal, he regrets how he handled the situation.
“I lost her. I lost her in my service to her, and that’s something I can’t get back, and that’s something I’ll carry with me,” said Hernandez. “Regardless of whether I’m allowed to return to law enforcement or not, it’s just something that I have to accept and something that I did.”
The lawsuit filed by Amanda and her attorneys reads: “The acts of Defendant Hernandez were salient in their wrongness and grossly offensive. Only an officer violating the law or who is plainly incompetent would perform such an act as attacking a family violence victim when responding to a call where they were attached..”
The lawsuit requests a trial by jury.
Williamson County Sheriff’s Office has been plagued with controversy in recent years, much of it stemming from “Live PD” and former Sheriff Chody.
A wrongful death investigation is ongoing related to the March 2019 in-custody death of Javier Ambler. Ambler died after a traffic chase that led to his arrest — during which the 40-year-old was tasered and restrained, despite disclosing he had a health condition making it hard for him to breathe.
Former deputies James Johnson and Zachary Camden, who were also involved in another use-of-force case — were indicted in March. Meanwhile, former Sheriff Chody was arrested and charged with tampering with evidence related to the Ambler death.
KXAN has requested comment from Williamson County. We’ll update once we’ve heard back.