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Sauceda v. City of San Benito

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Brownsville Division

September 25, 2019

RICARDO SAUCEDA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SAN BENITO, TEXAS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Fernando Rodriguez, Jr., United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ricardo Sauceda sued Defendants City of San Benito and Officer Hector Lopez after he allegedly suffered injuries when arrested in his front yard. Defendants move for summary judgment as to all claims. (Motion, Doc. 42) For the following reasons, the Court finds the Motion well taken.

         I. Background

         In June 2015, Marco Cortez called the San Benito Police Department to report a complaint. (Cortez Dep., Doc. 42-2, 7:22–25) Officer Hector Lopez received the dispatch call to respond to the complaint, and arrived at the location about five minutes later. (Lopez Dep., Doc. 55-2, 49:1–25 and 52:1–14) He was patrolling by himself at the time. (Id. at 49:21–22)

         When Lopez arrived, Cortez explained that he was at his grandfather’s home, attending a graduation party for one of his sisters. (Cortez Dep., Doc. 42-2, 6:12–20) Cortez had been outside awaiting his wife. (Id. at 12:9–13) Sauceda lived across the street and was in the front yard of his own home; both men could see each other. (Cortez Dep., Doc. 55-15, 12:9–25, 13:11– 20, 16:12–15, 124:7–23 and 156:2–10) After a short while, Sauceda allegedly asked Cortez, “What are you looking at?”, and made offensive gestures, such as grabbing his crotch. (Cortez Dep., Doc. 42-2, 16:12–15, 24:15–20, 33:10–16 and 37:3–7) Cortez told Lopez that he felt offended by Sauceda’s words and conduct, and that he was concerned because children were present, so he had called the police. (Id. at 23:2–5 and 25:5–11) He conveyed to Lopez that he “wanted to file a report of Mr. Sauceda’s behavior and his actions.” (Lopez Dep., Doc. 55-2, 52:4–5)

         After this conversation with Cortez, Lopez crossed the street to speak with Sauceda, who remained outside in his front yard. (Cortez Dep., Doc. 42-2, 40:5–13; Lopez Dep., Doc. 55-2, 64:8–24) Sauceda’s home had a chain-link fence with a closed entry. (Lopez Dep., Doc. 55-2, 72:9–25) Lopez stood on the sidewalk at the fence’s closed entry, with Sauceda standing a few feet away on the other side of the fence. (Id. at 72:5–16)

         Lopez had turned on his body camera to record his interaction with Sauceda. (Lopez bodycam, Ex. C, Doc. 39) The video captured their exchange, although the audio does not begin for about 30 seconds. (Id.) When the audio begins, Sauceda is explaining a history of animosity between him and the neighbor whose home Cortez was visiting. (Id. at 0:00:30–0:00:55) The Court finds, based on the video evidence, that the two individuals made the following statements and engaged in the indicated conduct:

Lopez: I need your driver license, sir.
Sauceda: What do you need my driver license for?
Lopez: Because I need to get your information.
Sauceda: No, no I’m not putting in a report.
Lopez: Huh?
Sauceda: I’m not putting in a report.
Lopez: I’m making a report.
Sauceda: For what? What’s the problem?
Lopez: I’m making a report.
Sauceda: What’s the problem?
Lopez: Here’s the thing, brother.
Sauceda: You got a camera. You think I’m doing something. I’m not doing anything bad. I’m minding my own business. Ya te dije lo que paso. You don’t understand, then.
Lopez: No, this is the thing, I need your information right now.
Sauceda: I’m not giving you anything. (He turned and began to walk toward his home, taking several steps.)
Lopez: Yes, you are, brother.
Sauceda: No, sir.
Lopez: (He began to try to open the gate.)
Sauceda: (He turned around and began walking back to the gate, arrivingat the gate as he talked.) [Unclear]. . .my dog. Hey, you’re not getting into ...

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