Dallas Police Officer Rene Villanueva Fired for Punching Speeding Driver on Dash Cam

Well, here's an even better argument to strap dash-cams on all cops. Dallas Police Department officer Rene Villanueva had claimed in November that a drunken-driving suspect tried to punch him. But footage from the police car showed that it was the officer who was doing all the punching. Chief David Brown released the footage today on the DPD's blog.

The original version of events, Villanueva's police report, tells a very different story from the video above.

In the middle of a traffic stop, the suspect "lunged forward attempting to strike AO Villanueva," the report says. At the same time, the suspect's other hand did some suspicious reaching around the vehicle. So Villanueva, fearing for his safety, then hit the suspect in a very professional-sounding manner: "AO Villanueva gave the AP multiple palm strikes to the side of his head to gain compliance." He then used a "straight arm bar takedown" to get the suspect on the ground.

The suspect, Ambrosio Monsavais, was charged with aggravated assault on a public servant, evading arrest, resisting arrest and DWI.

But while Monsavais sat in jail, a Dallas County Grand Jury reviewed footage showing a dramatically different version of events. And finally, on March 12, Officer Villanueva was indicted on the charges of official oppression and assault by a grand jury.

Chief Brown just announced today that in light of this decision, Villanueva is getting fired.

The arrest happened back on November 10, 2013. Villanueva was off-duty, working at a club, though he still had his squad car with him. It was around 2:30 in the morning when he saw Monsavais speed through the parking lot and hit a car. Villanueva tried to pull the car over, according to Brown, but Monsavais fled.

Sure, all that sounds arrest-worthy and Monsavais has pleaded guilty to some of the charges against him. But it's the way that Villanueva conducted that arrest that got him fired.

Villanueva got Monsavais to pull over in the 400 block of Hillburn Drive. It was then that he began botching the arrest, first by approaching the car alone with his gun already drawn, Brown writes on the DPD blog, which is not the correct way to do a felony traffic stop.

It got worse when the officer reached into the truck and "made a punching motion with his sidearm," Brown explains. After hitting the guy, the officer could then be seen on the squad car dash cam placing him on the ground. He punched him some more before putting him in handcuffs.

Monsavais, who had lacerations on his eye in his mug shot, is still in jail. He was sentenced last week to five years probation for the assault charge. He pleaded guilty to the DWI and evading arrest charges.

But, on the plus side, the "resisting arrest" charge against Monsavais got dismissed. Well, that's nice.

Remarkably, this isn't the first time Villanueva has faced a grand jury. In 2007, he fatally shot a man named Derrick Jones in Oak Cliff. The department released footage from that shooting back in 2008. A grand jury at the time declined to indict Villanueva.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn