APD ordered to pay hefty settlement to man tackled in parking lot

The Austin Police Department may have to shell out big money to a man who says: he was tackled and wrongfully accused of stealing an SUV. On Friday, a federal jury ruled in favor of Pete Hernandez.

The event happened in 2012 and Hernandez filed the lawsuit in 2014. Hernandez's lawyer says this was a bad case of the wrong place at the wrong time.

Video obtained by Fox 7 shows the encounter that unfolded at the South Park Meadows Wal-Mart parking lot. Pete Hernandez is the man in the white shirt. His lawyer says he was just coming out of the store with food and was tackled by officers.

“After they say get on the ground, he starts to get on the ground. On his way to the ground he looks up at the officers and says, “’me?'” Robert Ranco, Hernandez’s attorney, said.

Officers thought Hernandez was connected to that stolen black Yukon out of Houston.

“Was it reasonable to want to talk to him? Sure, he was walking closely to a stolen vehicle,” Ranco said.

He maintains that his client was cooperative.

“Even after being assaulted, thrown to the ground, flipped on his front, losing a tooth in the process, he is still on the ground saying sir you have the wrong person,” he said.

A federal jury ruled against APD, with a hefty judgment, of $877,000. Ranco feels the money is well deserved. He says Hernandez sustained injuries that required surgery. He believes the officers could've handled the situation differently.

“Say ‘Sir can we talk to you’? Order him to get on the ground but give him a chance to get there,” Ranco said.

The Austin Police Department release a statement saying:

While we are disappointed with the jury's findings, the city respects the legal process.  We are currently reviewing the decision to determine what further steps may be taken.

The city can appeal this judgment, so no checks have been written just yet.  The officers involved were not penalized.

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