Houston man receives $125K for civil rights violations by Santa Fe police

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Apr. 1, 2009, 8:35am

GALVESTON – The city of Santa Fe will pay $125,000 to a Houston man who claimed he was beaten by two of the city's police officers.

Sergio Robles was recently acquitted by a Galveston County jury on resisting arrest charges stemming from an incident in August 2006. Following the acquittal, the city decided to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit Robles filed last summer.

According to court documents, Robles was walking down a Santa Fe street when officers Eric Bruss and John Gates attempted to take him into custody, believing he was the man for whom they had an arrest warrant.

When Robles, who is schizophrenic, did not respond to the officers, he claimed Bruss and Gates beat him. According to the lawsuit, officers also cursed at him, threw him onto the hood of the squad car and pinned him to the ground.

He said they doused him with pepper spray and caused him to endure extreme pain when they pressed a key into a sensitive pressure point behind his ear.

Bruss and Gates claimed Robles provoked them, and he was arrested and charged with two counts of felony assault of an officer.

Robles filed a federal suit claiming the officers violated his civil rights on Aug. 12, 2008.

The trial over Robles' felony assault charges went to trial last week with Galveston County Judge Susan Criss, 212nd District Court, presiding.

A video from one of the police unit's mounted cameras showed the plaintiff not doing much to resist, prompting Judge Criss to downgrade the charges to resisting arrest.

The Woodlands attorney Kelly W. Case, who represented Robles during the week-long criminal trial phase, told the court that at the time of the incident his client was grieving the passing of his father and forgot to take his medication for schizophrenia.

Case said Robles did not respond to officers Bruss and Gates because of his negative mental state.

Houston attorney Randall Kallinen, another attorney for Robles, said in a March 31 article in The Galveston County Daily News that the criminal case greatly persuaded the city and the two officers to settle the suit.

Bruss and Gates were not charged with any crime and are still on the force. The city's Web site shows that both Bruss and Gates hold the rank of seargent.

An attorney for the city of Santa Fe told KHOU-TV it is still the city's position that the officers did not use excessive force.

Robles, Case and Kallinen seek the officers' resignation.

More News