Mom Says Much-Reprimanded School Cop Killed Her Son
SAN ANTONIO (CN) - A 14-year-old boy got into a fight at a school bus stop and the school district's police officer responded by shooting him to death, the boy's mother says in Federal Court. She says the cop had been reprimanded 16 times in the previous 4 years, suspended without pay 5 times, and "recommended for termination for insubordination," but the school kept him on the force "without remedial training."
Denys Lopez Moreno sued the Northside Independent School District, of San Antonio, the district's Chief of Police John Page and the alleged shooter, Daniel Alvarado.
Lopez says her son, Derek, got into a fight with another boy at a school bus stop and punched the other boy once, in November 2010.
"Defendant, Alvarado, having responded to a call regarding a bus with a flat tire, witnessed Derek strike the other boy. He ordered Derek to 'freeze.' Derek hesitated and then ran from defendant Alvarado," according to the complaint.
"In his patrol car, Alvarado began chasing Derek in the neighborhood across the street from the high school. Alvarado lost sight of the boy in the neighborhood and returned to the location of the school boy fight. At that time, he called dispatch. Dispatch recordings reflect that his supervisor directed Alvarado to stay with the other boy and to 'not do any big search over there.'
"Ignoring his supervisor's orders to 'stay with the victim and get the information from him,' Alvarado placed the second boy into the patrol car and sped into the neighborhood to search for Derek."
Lopez says her son jumped over a fence and hid in a shed in the back yard of a house. The homeowner saw him, called 911, and alerted a neighbor, who pointed Alvarado in Derek's direction. Lopez says her son never left the shed, never approached the house or threatened the homeowner or her daughters, and posed no threat to anyone.
Nonetheless, she says: "In violation of NISD police department procedures, Alvarado drew his weapon immediately after exiting the patrol car. With his gun drawn, he rushed through the gate and into the back yard. Within seconds from arriving at the residence, Alvarado shot and killed the unarmed boy hiding in the shed."
A neighbor, who is an EMT, called an ambulance, which arrived in 20 minutes, during which time the EMT was trying to save Derek's life, his mom says. But she says her son died in the ambulance about 50 minutes after Alvarado shot him.
Lopez says the district acted with "deliberate indifference" in keeping Alvarado on the force despite his poor disciplinary record.
"In approximately a four (4) year period leading up to the shooting, defendant Alvarado had been reprimanded sixteen (16) times," the complaint states. "Specifically, he had been reprimanded for insubordination and failure to follow supervisors' directives seven (7) times. Due to his poor service record, Alvarado was suspended without pay on five (5) occasions. On May 21, 2008, Alvarado was recommended for termination by Page. Despite being recommended for termination for insubordination and for refusal to follow supervisor directives, Alvarado remained on the force without remedial training."
Rather than fire Alvarado, the district transferred him to patrol, "an area of duty with less supervision," according to the complaint.
Lopez claims the district, which has about 70 police officers, failed to train its officers on procedures regarding off-campus criminal activity, use of weapons, use of force, and communication with other law enforcement agencies.
"Even after the tragedy of Nov. 12, 2010," Lopez says, "NISD has not trained its officers on its procedures relating to actions officers should take when witnessing an offense occurring off campus."
She seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, supervisory liability and negligence. She is represented by Wallace Brylak.
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