Embattled Texas AG and outside attorney respond to complaint that led to staff uprising

Marjorie Kamys Cotera | The Texas TribuneAttorney General Ken Paxton during a press conference in 2017. 

The attorney for the city of Huntsville has submitted a formal request for an opinion from the state’s attorney general seeking clarification on if the city has to publicly release police footage from a controversial arrest last month. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office received the request Wednesday from city attorney Leonard Schneider. He noted that the city has six body-cam videos and three in-car videos that recorded the arrest of 22-year-old Larry Davis of Huntsville. In a 77-second clip that was recorded from bystanders, officers are seen dragging Davis out of his vehicle from the passenger side, while using force to make an arrest.

Editors at The Item subsequently filed a public information request with the city for the release of the footage. Texas law says camera video can be released for “law enforcement purposes.”

Davis said that he was driving to work when he was stopped by officers for an expired registration at approximately 6:30 p.m. on April 25 at the H-E-B Gas Station on 11th Street in Huntsville. He is currently charged with two counts for assault of a peace officer, and single counts for resisting arrest and interfering with public duties.

In his letter to the AG, Schneider says the videos contain witness statements, names of witnesses and impressions of the police officer and release of the information would interfere with the current investigation and prosecution of the pending criminal charges of interfering with public duties, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. The charges have been turned over to the district attorney’s office who is reviewing the charges and requesting the videos not be released at this time.

Durham confirmed to The Item on Thursday that his office is currently reviewing the charges at intake.

Huntsville Police Chief Kevin Lunsford says that the incident was brought to his attention by department supervisors after a routine case review. He noted that his office immediately began looking into the matter and has initiated an internal investigation, which is still ongoing. However, no video or statements have been publicly released from the department as to if the officers were assaulted while Davis was in his vehicle.

A release from BLM HAAIR, a local civil rights organization, said that Davis was putting his hands up, asking ‘What is it now’, as officers approached the vehicle. They say that one of the officers “didn’t like his tone and proceeded to open his car door and beat him, along with another officer.”

“They pushed Davis’ face into the leather of the passenger seat and one officer proceeded to hold his legs down while another officer beat him in the face and ripped out some of his dreadlocks,'' BLM HAAIR leaders said. “He repeatedly said he could not breathe as his face was being suffocated by the leather, and they did not stop their assault on him. As he put his hands up to say he was not resisting arrest, his hand made contact with one of the officers.”

Paxton’s office will have 45 days to issue a ruling on if the footage can be held from public view. 

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