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Local Police Officer Sued for Excessive Force

Crime

Garland Police Unit | Image by NBC DFW

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Former Garland police officer Matthew Mitchell was fired last year after authorities said he had used “greater force than was necessary” when arresting a woman.

In a $10 million lawsuit filed last week, the woman, 45-year-old Xochitl Sanchez, claimed that she was brutally assaulted by the 29-year-old former police officer.

Officers responded to a domestic disturbance call on February 22, 2021, which led to the arrest of Sanchez. The lawsuit claims that despite Sanchez not resisting arrest, Mitchell forced her to her knees, handcuffed her, and dragged her to the police vehicle, during which her pants fell down, exposing her buttocks.

The officer accused Sanchez of spitting on him, at which point the lawsuit alleges that Mitchell approached the vehicle, opened a door, and pepper-sprayed Sanchez. The lawsuit asserts that Sanchez was “physically immobilized and completely vulnerable” for several seconds.

In a written statement, Sanchez’s lawyer, Mark Robinius, commented that the incident is “an egregious case of a helpless and physically disengaged single mother who posed absolutely no threat.” 

He added that the lawsuit is “meant to send a message that brutal assaults on citizens and deliberate indifference to their suffering will no longer be tolerated.” 

As reported by The Dallas Morning News, Mitchell argued that he used pepper spray to “effect lawful arrest” of Sanchez who he claimed was intoxicated, non-compliant, resisting arrest, cussing, and spitting on officers.

Garland Police Chief Jeff Bryan responded to the incident by saying that since Sanchez had already been arrested and properly secured in the police car, there was no need for further “combative and assaultive” actions.

Bryan wrote in a letter to the Garland Civil Service Commission that, during a traffic stop the day prior to Sanchez’s arrest, Mitchell had apparently kneed a man in the head and face who had been arrested, while the man was handcuffed, to the point that the man appeared “dazed and nearly unconscious,” as a result.

The police chief also alleged that Mitchell had misrepresented to investigators what had happened during the traffic stop.

Following both incidents, Garland police dismissed Mitchell from service in May 2021, citing excessive use of force. 

Robert Rogers, Mitchell’s lawyer, argued that the use of pepper spray was “within law and policy and was a reasonable response to a combative, non-compliant suspect’s decision to spit on a police officer who was making a lawful arrest.”

According to records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, as of September Mitchell was not working in law enforcement but was still a licensed peace officer in Texas.    

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