5 Houston police officers used controversial 'hog-tie' maneuver on Hispanic man, lawsuit claims

Jessica Willey Image
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Houston police faces lawsuit by man claiming they 'hog-tied' him
Alberto Ramos is suing the Houston Police Department and five officers after he claims they "hog-tied" him during a July 2021 arrest.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Hispanic man is suing Houston police officers, alleging that they targeted him based on his race and then "hog-tied" him despite signs that he was in distress.

The federal lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of Texas, names five Houston Police Department officers - Scott Erwin, Jennifer Gilbreath, Hallie Smith, Frederick Morrison, and Gino Dago - in connection to the arrest of Alberto Ramos on July 11, 2021.

Ramos, 27, is suing the officers, alleging civil rights violations, according to his attorney, Kiah Duggins of Civil Rights Corps.

"This lawsuit is about finding justice for Mr. Ramos," Duggins told ABC13.

Ramos was just walking on the sidewalk, the lawsuit claims, in the 500 block of Welch, when an officer, who was looking for a Hispanic male suspect after a 911 call, approached him. Duggins, who shared photos of Ramos with his family, said police had no probable cause to initiate contact, but then it got worse.

"We are alleging that HPD officers racially-profiled and physically assaulted him and used a deadly four-point restraint maneuver called hog-tying, or hobble, on Mr. Ramos while he was medically vulnerable," Duggins said.

Ramos was in obvious distress and had to be hospitalized afterward, she added.

For almost three decades, the U.S. Department of Justice has warned against hog-tying due to the danger. It's banned by many departments. The maneuver is still used within HPD, though.

"There are certain times when we need to restrain a combative suspect. There are different variables and factors in the times that they are used and, as long as it's done correctly, it is a process the department does still utilize," Ken Nealy, 1st Vice President of the Houston Police Officers' Union, explained.

HPD referred ABC13 to the Mayor's Office, which provided this statement:

"A lawsuit has been filed, it will work its way through the legal system. The City of Houston has no comments at this time."

Nealy denies the racial profiling claims and questions Ramos' motive in filing a lawsuit one day before the statute of limitations expires.

"He didn't file any complaint against our officers, not through the IA (Internal Affairs) Department, and I think by waiting until the last possible moment to lodge this federal lawsuit, it shows it's pretty much a waste of the court's time," Nealy said.

Duggins counters that filing a complaint against the police can be intimidating. She said Ramos instead called a civil rights organization's hotline to report the incident.

The officers, who are still on active duty and in good standing, will be represented by union attorneys, Nealy said.

Ramos was charged with two counts of assault on a peace officers and harassment of a public servant in connection to the incident. He is currently out of jail on bond.

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