Mission fired policeman for using excessive force, records show - The Monitor: News

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Mission fired policeman for using excessive force, records show

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Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2013 8:10 pm

MISSION — Recently released documents show the Mission Police Department fired a patrolman last month for unnecessary roughness during an arrest.

Interim Chief Robert Dominguez fired Officer Omar A. Diaz de Villegas on Sept. 13, but wouldn’t explain what prompted the decision beyond an unspecified “policy violation.”

The Mission Police Department also initially refused to release public records about Diaz de Villegas’ termination. Mission later provided a detailed 11-page memo about the incident following a formal public information request from The Monitor.

Dominguez declined to comment on the memo, concerned any statement might cause problems during the appeal process. Diaz de Villegas’ attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment on the police memo Friday.

A Mission High School graduate, Diaz de Villegas joined the U.S. Air Force and worked at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, N.M. Afterward, he returned to Mission and joined the police department in March 2011.

Nine months later, Mission dispatched Diaz de Villegas and several other officers to Ragland Street for an early morning domestic disturbance call.

During that incident, a belligerent, handcuffed man spat blood onto officers. Diaz de Villegas punched the handcuffed man in the face; the man later pleaded guilty to assaulting a policeman and Diaz de Villegas wasn’t punished.

That man later filed a federal lawsuit against Diaz de Villegas, several other officers and Mission, alleging they used excessive force. The lawsuit remains pending.

The latest incident happened on April 19, when Diaz de Villegas and other Mission policemen helped the Palmview Police Department chase down a stolen Chevy Tahoe, according to the police memo.

Mission police deployed spikes and the Tahoe eventually stopped on a dirt path near the intersection of Military Highway and Inspiration Road.

The Tahoe’s driver fled, but the passenger, Omar A. Piña, stayed behind. Piña later told police “he had not resisted arrest and had complied with all the verbal commands that were given to him during the arrest,” according to the police memo.

The Monitor couldn’t locate Piña for comment last week.

Diaz de Villegas grabbed Piña, tossed him onto the ground and struck him on the head with a department-issued pistol, according to the police memo. After patting Piña down, Diaz de Villegas tossed Piña, still handcuffed, into a police vehicle.

The Palmview policeman twice asked Diaz de Villegas to put Piña down because he wasn’t resisting arrest, according to the police memo.

“During the entire process of the arrest, from the moment Mr. Omar Piña was handcuffed to the point that you lifted him off the ground and towards the marked Palmview unit; then from the Palmview unit when you lifted him up in the air and held him up in the air; and then to the point that you threw Mr. Piña into the Mission Police marked police unit — the manner in which you treated Mr. Omar Piña was uncalled for is clearly not the appropriate way to treat a person in police custody,” according to the police memo.

After the Palmview Police Department complained about Diaz de Villegas’ behavior, the Mission Police Department responded quickly. Chief Dominguez started an internal investigation and suspended Diaz de Villegas with pay.

The five-month investigation ended on Sept. 13, when the Mission Police Department fired Diaz de Villegas for using excessive force and other policy violations. He’s currently appealing the decision.

dhendricks@themonitor.com

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