A Tyler resident is alleging he was falsely accused and arrested for assaulting a police officer after finding his pet parrot had been “mutilated.”
Alleging civil rights violations, Joseph Cotton filed suit against the city of Tyler and Police Chief Gary Swindle, along with several police officers and city employees, on April 15 in U.S. District Court for Eastern Texas, Marshall Division.
According to the lawsuit, Cotton, a 60-percent disabled Iraq war veteran, went to the police station with his wife to retrieve their stolen bird, an 85-year old Amazonian parrot. The couple was directed to a private interview room and soon learned the parrot’s wings had been clipped.
“Like any pet owner, Plaintiff became emotionally distraught after observing that his pet had been mutilated,” the suit states, adding that he used profanity and then remained upset after learning the police let the perpetrator of the crime go.
Cotton claims he and his wife were interrogated as if they had committed a crime.
To remove himself from the situation, Cotton exited the room, walking past one of the defendant employees, who he claims he did not make contact with but still called dispatch and said: “they almost pushed me on their way out of the interview room,” the suit states.
When the employee filled out an affidavit, the defendant claimed Cotton “shoved me with his body.” In fact, Cotton claims several officers filled out false affidavits to charge him with assault.
“Plaintiff was charged for conduct that does not constitute an offense based on Texas law,” the suit states. “As a result of these wrongful criminal charges, Plaintiff’s reputation was blemished, and he was subjected to enhanced stress and mental anguish both at home and at school.
“Plaintiff never committed an assault nor did he commit any act that could be considered disorderly conduct. Plaintiff’s conduct consisted solely of free speech under the First Amendment.”
Cotton is seeking an award of exemplary damages to punish the defendants to make an example of them and deter similar conduct in the future.
Tyler attorney William Hommel Jr. represents him.
Case No. 2:15-cv-00520-JRG-RSP