Houston Family Sues Harris County For Abuse Allegedly Caught On Tape

premium_article_portraitA federal civil rights suit filed Friday raises some troubling questions about the conduct of Harris County deputies. As shown on the video below, David Braxton Scherz Jr., 26, was arrested on Sept. 10, 2011, along with his father, mother, sister and aunt in front of their Houston home. Scherz was stopped for running a stop sign and the scene quickly escalated due, it seems, to the action of the officers. A Harris County deputy constable held Scherz down and kicked him until he, Scherz, had multiple broken ribs. The police never had probable cause for any of the family arrests and all charges were later dropped. As for David Scherz, he was not charged with the traffic violation but for denting the car of the deputies. The videotape also shows a family member being arrested after an officer spots her with a camera.

When Scherz was stopped on the minor traffic violation, his mother came out of the house. Officers ordered her back inside, though she was a right to be outside as long as she is not interfering with the police. When she objected that the police have no right to be on her property, she was put into custody. A deputy identified as Jimmie Drummond (now a captain) is shown kicking David Scherz as he is lying face down on the street with his hands behind him. As other officers hold him down, he kicks Scherz repeatedly in the ribs and then in the head. An officer is also shown dropping a knee on the back of his neck.

What is most notable is that (now Captain) Drummond insists that he has no memory of stomping on anyone. He stated “I remember the incident, but I don’t remember kicking anybody on the ground. I remember kicking a dog, but not a person.” I am not sure which is worse, doing this act or not remembering it.

David’s mother, Yvonne Scherz, 57, is a petroleum engineer and was charged with misdemeanor charges of interference with the peace officer.

David’s father, 58-year-old David Braxton Scherz Sr., and his sister, 24-year-old Elizabeth Scherz were charged with felony assault. Notably, an officer is heard saying “Get her, she has a camera,” as Elizabeth stood in the driveway filming the arrest of her mother and father. Deputies took away the iPhone. This is part of a pattern of such abusive arrests of citizens who film police in public.

All of the charges against the family were dropped, which also fits a pattern. In many police abuse cases, we see witnesses and victims handed criminal charges that are later dropped. These charges can intimidate citizens and discourage them from going public with complaints.

David was not charged with the original offense but with criminal mischief for denting the hood of a deputy’s vehicle. He insists that he was trying to take shoes to his mother, who was being dragged by officers to a patrol car.

There is notably no known charge or disciplinary action that has been taken against the officers for the slew of charges or the physical actions taken on the video. It is also unclear if the officers reported the kicking and accurate facts in their post-arrest statements. It is also unclear if prosecutors saw these tapes and took no steps to look into abuse by the officers. There are a lot of questions and few answers in the case. Once again, absent the civil lawsuit, it is not clear if any action, let alone answers, would be forthcoming in the case.

Kudos: Michael Blott

29 thoughts on “Houston Family Sues Harris County For Abuse Allegedly Caught On Tape”

  1. Randy

    One topic you might want to discuss with the sheriff might be the fact that officers often don’t act to stop the incidents such as the kicking, that is step in and hold back the officer is that for various reasons, yes unreasonable but still present, is that in many agencies there is unwillingness or paralysis that officers feel to stop it when it happens. It is something that is not taught very well mostly I will say. Some agencies this type of event does not happen and they don’t think really much about offering a training situation. Other agencies it is a common practice and there is peer pressure not to speak out. (the old think blue line type of mentality) I think that is more of the core of the problem.

    It would be a good training scenario to go through Mock Scenes with both vets and rookies where they are to portray a backup officer or one that is minimally involved and have actor officers who play various roles, such as from a regular arrest incident with no force, to ones where use of force was justified, to questionable uses of force, to criminal uses of force to provide these officers with the mindset and the training to intervene if needed if an officer goes out of line or postal.

    When training rookies, you can see a behavior pattern that seems to resemble the officer who sees an abuse but does nothing. If the rookie who you are training gets into an unfamiliar situation that they haven’t been trained on or that they are unfamiliar with what to do, they will sometimes freeze up and kind of become introverted or they will look at you, as their trainer, with a blank stare on their face hoping you will step in and help out. I suspect that something similar might be happening with officers who are around when an abusive situation takes place. They freeze up and / or hope that someone else will take care of it. Again, both situations are the same root that leads to these behaviors. If the officers had in the abuse situation received proper training, were backed up by the administrations in that they would not be punished for speaking out, and were determined to intervene I am convinced that for the most part they would and the situation would be greatly improved.

    Just an observation/suggestion.

    1. Thanks Darren, that is an excellent suggestion. The same I think can be applied to police training for dealing with citizens dogs as well. We cannot unring the bell, but we can try and prevent future incidents and make the police do their job better in protecting and serving the people who pay their salaries.

      A longer term solution will take legislative action to provide more effective legal controls on police conduct. One has to balance the ability for the police to do their job with the demand that they follow the law and use only reasonable force when needed and justified. It is good to hear from the perspective of the police and their procedures and what they see.

  2. Since the officer cannot remember what happened so very recently, he is not fit for the job he’s hired to do and should be terminated immediately, before going to prison.

  3. Robin, I didn’t see Darren making any excuses for what happened. It seemed to be a pretty dispassionate breakdown of the incident, guided by rational analysis. The conclusions he drew were pretty much universally condemning the actions of the cops: “no need to toss her”; “two arrests for little justification”; “criminal assault”; “BS”; “load of garbage”; etc etc etc. Providing the likely underlying emotional framework for an unlawful act doesn’t justify the wrongful act, it just explains the potential basis. If I say that OJ Simpson was probably very angry and hurt when he saw his ex-wife with another man that just means that I think he was probably angry and hurt. It doesn’t mean that I think that because he was angry and hurt that a double homicide is in any way less atrocious than if I didn’t try and understand what led him to carry out the heinous act. These officers might have been amped up by the circumstances that led to their arrival on the scene. Does that mean that they shouldn’t be punished for what they did? No, it just means that what they did was motivated by an emotional state that they should have been able to control but instead gave into, apparently with relish in this case.

    Darren, I appreciated your insight, and I remain just as pissed off at the officers as I was before I read (and largely agreed with) your post.

  4. Well Robin, it might be helpful to you if you actually read the analysis I provided. Did I not say the officer had no reason to throw the woman to the ground or did I not mention the officer who did the kicking was unjustified in doing this and should be charged with criminal assault? Did I say I did not see what the justification was to arrest the other bystanders who ran to the right? Did you miss all of that?

    I provided additional groundwork as to what have made some of these officers lose their senses and especially with the officer doing the kicking. I only commented at what the video provided because Professor Turley had talked about the outside issues that were not either visible or initially revealed on the tape. I commented on the tape because there are nuances on the tape that people who have not worked in the Law Enforcement profession might not pick up on. This reveals to the readers here additional information that they can use in their judgment as to what happened here. If you didn’t realize that the events leading up to the kicking even if it was what made the officer do the kicking go postal on this defendant were not important than you missed a large amount of information that is relevant.

    1. Thank you Smith for showing us the reasoning or lack of same in disciplining the cops. I now see the problems in the law and police procedure. Next time I see Harris County Sheriff, Garcia, I will ask him about the general problem of discipline of cops in these kinds of situations. I know that he cannot and will not say anything about this specific case.

  5. darren if this ever happens to you or someone in your family i hope we get to read the same sort of break down and anaylsis you always seem to give for videos like this..

    there is / was no justification for the abuse heaped on the family or the 5’4 woman who slipped out of cuffs that even the officer admitted were to big for her hands. as for the traffic stop. the cop say scherf ran a red light. but they didnt stop him at the red light. they followed him to his home and then arrested and abused his family for using their CONSTITUTION AND SPIRITUAL POWER GIVEN RIGHTS TO BE ON THEIR PROPERTY. and to try to find out what was going on.. i guess you also didnt hear the part where the cops yells SHE HAS A CAMERA GET HER!!! you can not add what happened in other arrests to this one. no cop was attacked they were doing the attacking. and unless we see different and i dont see how since the videos are straight off the COPS DASHCAM then your anaylsis does not fit nor the supposed scenarios of what could or has or might happen

  6. The problem I have , this case such as others do not teach the police anything. All it will teach is it is OK to do have this kind of behavior b/c you will not be accounted for your actions. Cases such as this should have legal actions on all the police officers at the scene. We are letting these cops get away with this crap and not holding them to their actions that is why we see more and more cases like this. If I where to go just hit someone and kick them while they are on the ground I could be charged with a felony. Then why are these cops not being charged. So basically we have taught to the police officers is , if you beat the crap out of an annocent person you will get a raise and a promotion, that is what has happen in this case.

  7. There is one issue that one has to have in mind is that there are occasions where an arrest is made and family / friends come out and attack officers. When this happens every officer in the area is called (which is what seems to have happened here, even if it was not the case by civilians in this incident the radio traffic would have led dispatch to send in more backup and everyone in the area would have shown up) Moreover, someone had “requested the channel”, meaning that the officers on scene told dispatch that a serious incident was taking place and to give them exclusive authority to use the channel so that other officers on routine calls would not override an emergency at the scene. The dispatcher later at least two times requests an on-scene officer if she can “clear” the channel which means free up the channel for other traffic due to the scene being under control.

    It seems like this had created an amped up situation that spiralled out of control and brought out some aggressive actions by some officers.

    When that is the case officers will more often than usual to hook everyone up who they perceive to be interferant or aggressive or such. I am not justifying what I see here but trying to give a basis for what later ensued.

    It would be nice to see a video of the entire incident; before what we had but I don’t know if this is aviailable.

    What I noticed just by watching the video is that the woman was protesting her arrest and was pawing back at the officer. I didn’t see the need to toss her to the ground even if the officer was justified in arresting her.

    Two persons were arrested for what I saw to be of little justifiecation. The ones where they ran off to the right of the screen. It would have had to be a verbal threat (one that was not heard by the camera) But I don’t see evidence of this by the expression of the citizens.

    Someone was pepper sprayed as evidenced by the request for EMS heard over the radio.

    The tall fat officer who did the kicking was committing a criminal assault in my view.

    There is no justification for kicking the man as he did. It was clearly anger fuelded and not self defense motivated. Especially when cursing at the defendant ordering him to submit and then kicking him. If the defendant had took the gun away from one of the officers I could see the kick as justified, short of that, no.

    And that he did not remember the kicking of the defendant. BS. Any time an officer uses physical force against a person it has to be documented. He knows this. I could see if he wrote that he couldn’t remember if he kicked him six times or five times but that he did not remember he kicked him at all. Load of garbage. He chose not to remember might be more accurate.

  8. Re the above video: I bet that 110 lbs woman was just about to overpower those officers. What has happened to our society? Why do the police have such “god power” complexes? I hope she sues the living crap out of the city.

  9. This is a disgusting example of how police forces around the country have become militarized and have lost all control. There are several officers in this video who should be in jail on assault charges and instantly removed from the force. I cannot assume that it is just rogue cops anymore. If the department shields these thugs, then the entire department has broken the law. People are not even allowed to stand on their own property according to these officers.

    1. People are not even allowed to stand on their own property according to these officers.

      I black fellow worker was in front of his own house, on his lawn, while some cops were making an arrest two doors down. A cop told him to get his black ass back inside his house. JT told him to get off of HIS property and that he had every right to stand there. The cop came up, arrested and cuffed him, then put him in the back seat of the patrol car with the windows rolled up in a Houston summer and the A/C off. He survived that one barely, was booked and then released on PR. No charges were ever filed.

      This made JT hate the HPD with a purple passion. That was quite a feat for HPD since JT was a two term Navy man who was a law and order kind of guy. As he said, if he ever sees a cop get shot, he will get down and lap up the cops blood and tell him to lay down and DIE!

  10. Since I know the Sheriff of Harris County, I have to say that Adrian is far better than those in the past. He actually tries to follow the law, unlike all of his predecessors. I see that this happened on his watch, but he had recently been elected and was relatively new. There is a limited amount even the Sheriff can do thanks to the GOP and the Texas Law which shields police misconduct. If you like what these cops are doing, you need to vote Republican.

    An example from when Lee Brown became the first black HPD Chief. Four cops on graveyard shift at the end of that shift were sitting in their patrol cars in front of the police union headquarters. They were having a party drinking beer and getting drunk. They came up with the brilliant idea to shoot up their own headquarters and blame it on the “queers” and others. They put a number of bullets into the building.

    Other cops investigated and found out the truth of the matter. Brown fired all four of the cops, but three of them were given their jobs back by the Civil Service Commission on appeal, the probationary cop was fired. I can also understand why Garcia cannot comment on this incident, but I also know how hard it is to change the culture of such rogue cops in the whole dept. The conservatives and the GOP every election try and get rid of Sheriffs who actually try and obey the law claiming that stopping such crap undermines the cops.

    I worked with a guy in the refinery who was into martial arts,, and he took a leave of absence to study that in Japan. He came back, and applied to the Harris County Sheriffs Dept. His reason as he stated to me was that he got his butt kicked in Japan for a year, and the only way he can legally kick butt and not go to jail is to become a cop. He was hired by Harris County Sheriff. The only way to begin to stop this kind of thing is to get rid of the conservatives who sanction such actions.

  11. There are apps for real time uploading video to the Cloud or to the internet. If anyone thinks they might video anyone or anything where the camera might be seized or the SIM card erased, such an app is a good idea.

  12. He stated “I remember the incident, but I don’t remember kicking anybody on the ground. I remember kicking a dog, but not a person.” I am not sure which is worse, doing this act or not remembering it.

    The Reagan Defense

  13. This is Houston and you’re disposable…. Especially if you’re not white…. Heck, even dentist husbands having affairs are disposable….

  14. Police have no comments other than “facts will come out in court”, they then settle for a HUGE chunk of taxpayer’s money that cops pay out to keep this from going to court…admitting no guilt….and then they have no comment and hope it quietly goes away….

    SOP for this kind of thing….

Comments are closed.