Dallas Transit Police Sued For Wrongful Arrest of PINAC Reporter
Dallas Transit Police wrongly arrested a Texas man for taking photos in Rosa Parks Plaza near the city’s downtown bus station, now they’re facing a serious civil rights lawsuit, which you can see below.
“DART’s investigation sustained every single allegation against her,” said PINAC reporter Avi Adelman in a tone of deep frustration about the lawsuit he filed, “They found she [the DART Officer] lied 23 times in her statement vs the body microphone tape, and they are not going to do anything to punish her for this action.”
He accuses Dallas Area Rapid Transit of having an unconstitutional trespassing policy, and is seeking injunctive relief as well.
Ironically, the plaza is named after the famed civil rights activist, herself wrongfully arrested in a bus for exercising her First Amendment rights to free assembly.
Avi Adelman’s numerous photos mainly in Dallas have been broadcast on all of the region’s major local news outlets, as well as in the pages of PINAC News. He was taking photos on a public sidewalk of an EMS response to a medical emergency in public, near the central bus station when Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Police Officer Stephanie Branch approached him, harassed him and arrested him this past February.
“It took several months to realize what we already knew – DART Officer Stephanie Branch arrested me on a throw-down charge (criminal trespassing) to stop me from taking photographs of the medical scene,” Adelman told us, adding that he’d never been arrested before this incident, “She made up her own rules and thought that I would just accept being in jail as no big deal.”
DART dropped the criminal charges a week later, but not before Adelman spent a night in jail and bore the financial cost of bonding. According to his complaint:
Officer Branch—with the blessing of her supervisor, DART Police Sergeant T. Hutchins—used a trumped-up charge of criminal trespass to justify her unlawful arrest of Adelman. Officer Branch also justified the arrest by falsely stating that Adelman was interfering with Dallas Fire/Rescue (DFR) paramedics and that those paramedics had asked Officer Branch to move Adelman from the scene.
DART supported Officer Branch’s false account, with its spokesman, Morgan Lyons, stating less than 24 hours after the arrest that DART had “reviewed the exchange and believes the officers acted appropriately.” According to Lyons, “Dallas Fire-Rescue asked [Adelman] to move. He refused. Paramedics asked us to ask him to move several times. He failed to comply and that’s why he was arrested.”
The evidence paints a starkly different picture from the one painted by Lyons and DART. In fact, just a few days after Lyons issued his statement, DFR spokesman Jason Evans disputed DART’s account: “At no point were any requests made to ask Mr. Adelman to leave the scene and/or stop taking pictures. In addition, there were no requests made to [DART] officers to ask him to leave the scene and/or stop taking pictures.”
That led to a DART internal affairs investigation, which ended with damning conclusions:
The investigation revealed that Officer Branch committed numerous violations of law and disregarded Adelman’s constitutional rights. Specifically, DART concluded that Officer Branch “did not establish Probable Cause to effect the arrest” and improperly arrested Adelman while he was “simply taking photographs of a person in a public place” where he had a legal right to be present.
Adelman’s lengthy complaint addresses the First Amendment violation which occurred when they specifically demanded he stop photographing the scene, and the litany of other complaints related to his false arrest.
The DART Police internal affairs investigation resulted in a rare, but warranted upholding of the charges against the officer, who remains in her position and on the job.
But still, it did not lead to an administrative resolution which satisfied the victim.
“We tried to settle this matter amicably and within the system,” said Adelman, “but DART stonewalled us on the investigation and would not even reply in writing to our offer.”
“That’s not how things should work in our society.”