A Houston man who was handcuffed in jail when his head was injured by an officer who pressed it against a door jamb is headed to trial alleging his civil rights were violated and excessive force.
Video of the incident from a city jail facility in downtown Houston shows correctional officer Salvador R. Corral of the Houston Police Department holding plaintiff Reuben Williams Jr.’s head into the door jamb of a jail cell, causing him to lose consciousness.
When he releases his hand, Williams’ head can be seen bleeding on the floor.
Medical personnel administered 10 stitches to his forehead to help seal the gash.
The incident happened in 2014 and was captured on surveillance video cameras at a municipal facility, which helped convince a federal judge this week to allow Williams’ federal civil rights lawsuit to proceed to trial against officer Corral.
Williams’ attorney Randall L. Kallinen said the video recordings were an essential element convincing the judge the claim had merit.
On Tuesday last week, Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal ruled the treatment of Williams should be heard at trial on charges of whether or not Corral violated Williams’ Constitutional rights.
The suit alleges officer Corral committed assault and battery under state law as he led Williams into the jail cell.
Judge Rosenthal also granted a trial for the claim of whether or not Corral used excessive force, but removed the city of Houston from liability in the case, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Corral was disciplined after the incident for “not being aware of his surroundings,” Kallinen told the Chronicle.
Officer Corral, who has been with the department since 2009, remains on duty in the traffic enforcement division, according to a spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department Jodi Silva.
“We cannot allow this behavior by our public employees to continue,” Kallinen, who explained video footage made the case possible, said.
“It’s becoming more common that through the use of videos, through cell phones and videos in the jails, we’re being able to get the truth,” he explained.
“Without a video, it would have been several officers’ word against my client’s. And who’s going to win on that?”
Jeff Reese, a former sergeant in a Harris County Sheriff’s Office detention unit, who now serves as an advocate on police transparency for civil rights groups, said officers lash out for a number of reasons based on his experience.
“Usually it’s anger, they’re reacting because they’ve been cursed at,” Reese explained.
“That’s wrong no matter how you spin it,” he said.
“Somebody’s supposed to know better, and it should be the officer who knows not to do these things.”
Officer Corral has maintained he was acting in self-defense after Williams spat on and urinated in his patrol car.
Cameras have been installed inside Houston jails to protect the rights of people arrested as well as the department if an officer acts outside of policy and procedure, Reese said.