Last month, Derrick Broze at BenSwann.com reported on an incident, seen in the above-embedded dashcam video, in which 23-year-old Victoria, TX Police Officer Nathanial Robinson was caught on tape on December 11 aggressively tackling and tazing 76-year-old Pete Vasquez. According to The Victoria Advocate, the Victoria Police Department announced on Monday that it has fired Officer Robinson.
Pete Vasquez was working that December day as a mechanic for Adam’s Auto Mart and was driving one of the lot’s vehicles with auto dealer tags, which are exempt from state inspection rules. However, Officer Robinson, unaware of the policy, pulled Vasquez over as he was pulling back in to work. Noticing that the officer had the law mixed up, Vasquez took a few steps towards the office at Adam’s Auto Mart and asked his boss to explain the policy to Robinson.
Officer Robinson and Vasquez then got into an argument over the legality of the plates on the vehicle. Shortly thereafter, Robinson tackled and unleashed his stun gun twice on the senior citizen, prompting Vasquez’ manager Larry Urich to come outside and inform the officer that the vehicle’s plates were indeed exempt. Officer Robinson ordered Urich to step back, but Urich continued to protest the attack, calling the policeman a “Nazi stormtrooper.”
Vasquez, who was taken to the emergency room at Citizens Medical Center in handcuffs following the incident, described the officer’s behavior to The Victoria Advocate, saying, “[He] just acted like a pit bull, and that was it. For a while, I thought he was going to pull his gun and shoot me.” The senior citizen was released without charges after remaining in police custody for two hours.
Shortly after news of the incident went viral, Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig apologized to Vasquez and admitted that the dealer plates on the vehicle were indeed exempt. Chief Craig launched an internal investigation into Officer Robinson’s actions, and turned his case over to the Texas Rangers for a criminal investigation.
After the investigations began, the police accountability blog Photography Is Not a Crime attempted unsuccessfully to obtain Victoria Police Department’s use-of-force policies through a public records request. Lawyers for the city said that releasing those details “could impair an officer’s ability to arrest a suspect by placing individuals at an advantage in confrontations with police.” Photography Is Not a Crime noted that other police departments do often release their use-of-force policies to the public.
On Monday, the Victoria Police Department concluded its investigation into Officer Robinson’s behavior and decided to terminate his employment, citing that he had committed policy violations under the categories conduct and performance, use-of-force, and arrest without a warrant. However, department officials did not specify exactly what those policies are and which of Robinson’s actions specifically violated them.
The Victoria Advocate published a press release by the Victoria Police Department which also confirmed that the Texas Rangers have forwarded evidence to Victoria District Attorney Steve Tyler which will be used to determine whether Officer Robinson should also face criminal charges. District Attorney Steve Tyler has not yet commented on that evidence, but did tell The Victoria Advocate last month that Robinson could face charges including official oppression, aggravated assault, injury to elderly, and assault.
Vasquez family attorney Rachel Messer told Click2Houston, “Mr. Vasquez and his family agree with the conclusions of the Victoria Police Department’s internal investigation. We are also still hopeful for full prosecution.”
In the statement by the Victoria Police Department on Officer Robinson’s termination, Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig said, “This is a very unfortunate incident for everyone involved. The Victoria Police Department places a high value in public trust. The men and women of the Victoria Police Department work hard each and every day to provide professional service with pride and respect to the community.”