Things That Matter

Police Violated This Woman’s Rights And Dignity When They Pulled Out Her Tampon On The Side Of A Busy Street

On Thursday, the City of San Antonio approved a $205,000 payout to a woman who had been violated by police officers.

Natalie Simms, 40, sued the city of San Antonio, Texas and ex-Detective Mara Wilson — who removed Simms’ tampon despite being told she was on her period.

The unimaginable experience all started when Simms was sitting on a curb and was approached by police.

Natalie Simms, a woman in her late 30s living in San Antonio, wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary as she waited for her boyfriend on that day in August 2016. She was sitting on the curb, her car parked across the street, talking on the phone and minding her own business.

That’s when police officers arrived. They believed she might be in possession of illegal drugs and asked to search her car. After she agreed, they called a female officer to also search her. Even though she didn’t have any contraband, they said she couldn’t leave until she was fully searched by detective Mara Wilson, according to court records filed last year in the Western District of Texas.

Later, Wilson, who allegedly did not have a warrant at the time, asked Simms if she could pull down her shorts.

Out in the public, as cars drove by, Wilson conducted a vaginal cavity search, the lawsuit said. Wilson instructed Simms to “spread your legs,” and asked, “do you have anything down here before I reach down here?”

“Natalie began to realize, with shock, what Officer Wilson intended to do,” according to the lawsuit. “Officer Wilson intended to reach down into Natalie’s pants and made contact with her pubic hair and vagina.”

When Simms told Wilson that she was on her period, the lawsuit alleges that Wilson lied by saying she wasn’t going to reach into her pants but just “look.” Instead, with five male officers watching, Wilson “pulled open Natalie’s pants and underwear.”

The conversation between Simms and Wilson, taken directly from the lawsuit, reads:

WILSON: Uh-huh. Are you wearing a tampon, too?
SIMMS: Yes.
WILSON: Okay. I just want to make sure that’s what it is. Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: Come on. Yes.
WILSON: Huh? Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: It’s full of blood, right? Why would you do that?
WILSON: I don’t know. It looked like it had stuff in there.
SIMMS: There ain’t nothing in there.

Wilson also commented on the amount of pubic hair Simms had and continued to tell Simms they could not go to the police station to finish conducting the search, despite Simms’ persistence, the lawsuit states.

Following the search, Simms sued the city of San Antonio and Wilson, alleging the encounter to be a “blatant violation” of her constitutional rights that “resulted in significant and lasting harm.”

Natalie suffered through a shocking display of what can occur when police power is unchecked. Natalie was humiliated and degraded as a result of the police officer’s actions,” her attorney Dean Malone told local news station WOAI in March 2018. “We intend to seek full damages available under the law and look forward to presenting Natalie’s horrible experience to a jury.”

In a surprise twist to Simm’s case, however, city lawyers offered $205,000 to Simms

The city settled the case before it could go to trial.

“We evaluate cases and look for potential resolutions without the necessity of proceeding to trial.  We were able to resolve this matter with this proposed settlement and believe it to be in the best interest of all involved,” said City Attorney Andy Segovia.

In the wake of the incident, the city nor the police department has issued any sort of apology.

In the wake of the incident, Wilson, who retired in May 2017, stood by the way she searched Simms. “It was really nasty, but I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything in there,” she told another detective, according to court records. She claimed she needed to conduct the search because “you don’t know what they have. I mean, they stick all kinds of stuff.”

A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

Things That Matter

A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

@KoltenParker / Twitter

Congressman Joaquin Castro called out a San Antonio police officer who was fired after colleagues reported him for feeding a dog feces sandwich to a homeless man but who successfully appealed his case. The incident happened in 2016, but Castro was reacting to an investigative journalism series on KSAT-12 called “Broken Blue.” 

Matthew Luckhurst, a bicycle patrol officer, was placed on indefinite suspension after the act was reported. However, Luckhurst won his case appeal through a loophole last March. San Antonio authorities insist he is still suspended and has not been reinstated to his job. 

Joaquin Castro calls out the San Antonio Police Department.

“One police officer gave a feces sandwich to a homeless man, was fired, appealed, got his job back,” Castro said of the importance of the “Broken Blue” series’ examination of San Antonio police corruption. 

The Texas representative believes law enforcement unions court public distrust when they side with bad officers.

“Police unions too often stand by bad officers regardless of how bad they’ve acted. It severely undermines public trust. I also believe the umbrella unions, such as the AFL-CIO, have a responsibility to speak up to help change this,” Castro continued. “These are some of the reasons I cannot support the further expansion of collective bargaining specifically for police unions across the country. Not until the disciplinary process is fixed and bad officers are properly held accountable.”

City Manager Erik Walsh echoed Castro’s feelings on collective bargaining to KSAT news

“Current collective bargaining agreement limits the Chief’s ability to appropriately discipline officers that deserve to be disciplined. We intend to bring those issues to the next contract negotiation with the police union,” he said.

The San Antonio Police Association (SAPOA) responds to Castro’s tweets. 

SAPOA released a statement saying the “Broken Blue” series was nothing short of an attack on the San Antonio police. The statement called the series “misleading and sensationalistic” and said that the cases featured were old and resolved several years before. 

“This series attacks SAPOA and our members by saying we’re too powerful and that we make it difficult to remove ‘problem’ officers,” Michel Helle, president of SAPOA, said in a statement. “While I agree we’re a strong organization when it comes to the discipline and appeals process, our role is simple and transparent: ensure that the rights of officers are observed and protected.”

SAPOA claims that in 10 years there have only been 40 “indefinite suspension” cases with 2,300 total police officers, making up .00017 percent of the force. Skeptics might say a lack of disciplinary action doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of wrongdoing, which is precisely the issue many critics of law enforcement have.

In the Atlantic’s 2019 piece about police accountability, reporter Ted Alcorn suggests that local police departments lack the transparency that allows public scrutiny. 

“Compared with other institutions of municipal government, police departments are unusually insulated from scrutiny,” Alcorn wrote. “Whereas other agencies give the public an opportunity to comment on policy changes before they go into effect, the decisions of law enforcement may be shared only after the fact, if at all. While the police chief usually answers to the mayor, city councilors, or members of a police commission, those officials can be reticent about second-guessing their public-safety officials.”

Luckhurst was able to win his appeal through a legal loophole. 

Colleagues reported that on May 6, 2016, Luckhurst fed a dog feces sandwich to a homeless person while on bike patrol. While there were no witnesses to the incident or bodycam footage, police officers found out because Luckhursthad been allegedly bragging about it. 

At first, Luckhurst challenged the events. Instead, he claimed that while clearing an encampment filled with litter, he told a homeless man to toss a piece of feces with a piece of bread he had picked up. Then, Luckhurst challenged the May 6 date. He claimed he had medical documents that meant he wouldn’t have been able to bike from April 6 to June 14, 2016. 

An arbitrator decided that because of the date flub and a lack of evidence that Luckhurt’s indefinite suspension should be voided. His indefinite suspension was shortened to only five days. Last May, Chief William McManus said they overturned the decision because a policy requires punishments to be doled out with 180 days of the incident. 

“He is still facing a separate indefinite suspension and we will vigorously defend the decision to terminate him,” McManus said.

However, Luckhurst has not returned to work because of a different incident where he was placed on indefinite suspension. In June 2016, police allege that Luckhurst defecated in the woman’s bathroom stall at the police department’s Bike Patrol Office. Officers say he spread “a brown, tapioca-like substance” on a toilet seat, according to My SA. 

Luckhurst is currently on indefinite suspension while he awaits the outcome of this arbitration. 

A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

Things That Matter

A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

cialuart / Instagram

The people of San Francisco have a lot of heart. Yes, the wealthy thrive there, and the homeless community continues to grow, but somewhere in the middle is an empowering group of fighters for justice. They do not back down but instead make their voices heard loud and clear. It’s a tight-knit alliance that is responsible for forcing change on all fronts of authority. San Franciscans are also incredibly beautiful at honoring fallen residents. 

Almost five years after 20-year-old Amilcar Perez-Lopez was gunned down by police in San Francisco, artists are honoring him with a massive mural in the Mission District.

Credit: crashgrammy / Instagram

The lead artist on this impressive artwork is Lucía González Ippolito, a native of the Mission District. The mural is titled “Alto al Fuego en La Misón” and the most prominent subject on the mural is Perez-Lopez, the undocumented young man from Guatemala. 

On Feb. 26, 2015, Perez-Lopez was fatally shot by the SFPD, who were in plainclothes in the Mission District. The officers reported that they “opened fire to protect themselves and others from a man who was acting erratically and was armed with a knife,” the SFGate reports. Witnesses told a different story. They said Perez-Lopez was running for his life, which is why he was shot in the back. 

The Perez-Lopez investigation went on for years, and in the end, the SFPD was never charged, but Police Chief Greg Suhr did resign from his post. However, it wasn’t just because of the pushback from the Perez-Lopez investigation but from multiple fatal shootings of unarmed people at the hands of the police. His parents eventually won a settlement from the SFPD

Aside from the artful depiction of Perez-Lopez, the mural also pays tribute to Black and brown people who have died as a result of police brutality as well as people who have died on the southern border.

Credit: amaya_papaya28 / Instagram

During the year in which he was killed, Perez-Lopez “was one of the 67 Latino people killed,” the Guardian reports. The publication adds that Perez-Lopez was also one of the 58 percent who was killed and unarmed. 

“‘Why didn’t you put in Jessica Williams?’ Or, ‘Why didn’t you put in this person?’ The truth of the matter is that we just didn’t have enough space,” Ippolito told the SFWeekly. “And I wish we could include a lot more.”

Ippolito said she and the rest of the mural team were confronted with the fact they didn’t have enough space to put every person that lost their life because of the SFPD. The mural is already one of the largest murals “to be painted in the Latino Cultural Corridor in a decade,” according to the local publication. 

“That was the hardest part,” Anna Lisa Escobedo, another artist on this project, said to SF Weekly. “From the community, a lot of people were saying, ‘We are missing this person, this person, this person.’ We could do five more murals and focus on people who had the same circumstances, and that is sad.”

This isn’t the first artwork that has honored Perez-Lopez.

Credit: msmichellemeow / Instagram

His painted portrait was seen throughout the streets of San Francisco when residents demanded justice in his death. A couple of months after he was killed, artist YESCKA painted a mural that included Perez-Lopez. The mural was painted on the sidewall of the gallery Red Poppy Art House, which is located just blocks two from where Perez-Lopez was shot and killed. 

The mural by Ippolito is pretty remarkable because of its use of bright colors, and the inclusion of Mexican motifs, both the Guatemalan and San Francisco landscape, and Perez-Lopez in his signature Giants baseball cap. But the mural is also representative of an altar of sorts. Perez-Lopez is pictured inside an altar, and the rest of the people that are honored in the painting are seen on prayer candles. 

The other deceased individuals on the mural include Roxana Hernandez, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, and Oscar and Valeria Martinez, who died either on the southern border or in ICE custody. 

Credit: cialuart / Instagram

This mural is a perfect addition to the many outstanding paintings that the city of San Francisco has to offer. 

One of my favorite things to do when I am back in the Mission is to go on a walking tour to gaze at the stunning murals that depict the people of San Francisco, but also the history of our community.  

READ: One Of The Major Artists In The Chicano Art Movement Has Died At 75