Dallas Police officer Jesus Martinez, over the last two-plus years, has been charged, fired, let go by a grand jury and rehired by the Dallas Police Department. Thursday afternoon, the saga of this officer continued as he announced that he was suing outgoing Dallas Police Chief David Brown and the city of Dallas for wrongful termination.
He's seeking at least $200,000.
On June 8, 2014, Martinez had a run-in with Joe Wesson. Martinez tried to stop Wesson as he was aggressively panhandling in Deep Ellum. That much is clear. Martinez says that he initially tried to let Wesson off with a warning, but arrested him when Wesson continued harassing patrons.
Martinez says Wesson refused to show him his hands, leading Martinez to believe that the Deep Ellum fixture might be holding a weapon. Martinez maced Wesson and was nearly blinded by the blow back from the pepper spray. It was the spray, and Wesson's resisting, that made this arrest — caught on a bystander video, look so awkward.
Witnesses at the scene gave conflicting accounts about what happened. Several said that there was no fight, while some at least partially backed up Martinez's version of what happened. The video, as released by DPD on its YouTube channel, seemingly sealed Martinez' fate.
Brown fired Martinez in November 2014, leading to an outcry from the Deep Ellum community. In December, an army of Deep Ellum business owners and residents descended on Dallas' city council chambers to demand Martinez get his job back.
"Simply put, we want our officer back," said Stephanie Johnson, a photographer and organizer of the Martinez supporters. "He is an invaluable part of our community and the city of Dallas as a whole."
Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez, the first level of appeal for fired city employees, upheld the dismissal. But after a grand jury no-billed Martinez in May 2015, the Dallas Civil Appeal Board reinstated him to DPD.
He's worked there since September 2015. But Martinez is suing Brown and the city for wrongful termination, leading to loss of income. Although he was paid for the time he lost before his reinstatement, Martinez says being without a job for so long deprived him of the chance of making extra money from extracurricular gigs related to police work. This shortfall, he claims, caused him to dig into his pension to the tune of $30,000.
The city also deducted the almost $20,000 Martinez made during his year as a civilian from his back pay.
"They deducted the pay from my outside work while I was gone, that I made. As an officer we get part-time work all of the time, but does the city deduct the part-time income earned by officers from the city of Dallas from their paychecks? I was surprised by this and very hurt by it," Martinez said Thursday. "The city wrongfully fired me and then it wanted to penalize me for getting my job back."
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Martinez and his lawyers claim that Martinez was fired because of political pressure — Martinez's disciplinary process occurred just as the protests over the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, started. He also said the department released a video that didn't show the full context of what happened.
"Because of the political atmosphere surrounding the Ferguson, Missouri incident, this particular, and dissimilar ordeal in Deep Ellum has painted Officer Martinez as a racist police officer, which has caused irreparable harm to Officer Martinez’s reputation," Martinez' suit says. "Moreover, Officer Martinez now faces uncertainty and job insecurity within the police department, for fear that reaching out to the wrong person might result in further job loss and cost him his career."
He is happy to be back on the streets in Deep Ellum, Martinez said. "I love the Dallas Police Department. I love being an officer. I love Dallas and I absolutely love my neighborhood Deep Ellum. But that love for all of this does not mean I'll sit back and let the department take from my wife and my family," Martinez said. "This is the only way we can get Dallas to admit what they did to me was wrong."