By Samantha Smith
A Buda couple is set to go to trial Oct. 17 after an altercation with a Buda police office in Walmart two years ago.
Buda couple Juan Martinez, 73, and Guadalupe Martinez, 70, will present their case in federal court against the city of Buda, Walmart Stores Texas, LLC, and Buda Police Officer DeMerriell Young on Oct. 17 for constitutional violations.
The Martinez’s lawsuit against the superstore giant, the local municipality and the officer from Buda stem from an incident that occurred approximately two years ago. At that time the couple was arrested at the Buda Walmart for separate offenses.
On Oct. 3, 2014, before 8 p.m. the couple were shopping at the Buda Walmart Superstore in separate motorized carts when they became separated while in the store.
According to the Martinez’s lawsuit petition, Guadalupe was in a motorized cart with merchandise in the basket looking for her husband when she exited the Walmart.
According to the petition, the Loss Prevention staff at the store escorted Guadalupe to an office where they accused her of theft for approximately $163 of unpaid merchandise in her cart.
Guadalupe’s arrest warrant states that Buda Officer Young arrived on the scene at 7:58 p.m. and was updated by Walmart employees on the situation before meeting Guadalupe.
Juan’s arrest warrant states that after Young was briefed on the situation he went into the Loss Prevention Office to speak with Guadalupe when her husband Juan noticed and followed him inside.
The arrest warrant stated that Young had asked Juan to “step outside” six times before the officer said he would remove Juan from the room.
A body camera video was released to KVUE News showing the altercation between Juan and Young.
The KVUE video was published on its website on Oct. 6, showing Young asking Juan to “step outside”. Young is heard on the video telling Juan he would either “step outside or I will place you outside, or I will place you under arrest for interfering.”
Young is heard telling Juan to turn around so that he can be handcuffed when Juan yells “stop it, stop it” and starts fighting off Young.
The next scene shows Juan laying on the floor outside the office screaming. Guadalupe can be heard in the background asking about her husband and saying that Young “pushed him.”
According to the lawsuit, “Young intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly assaulted Juan Martinez by needlessly trying to eject him from a room where his wife was being detained, causing him to break four ribs.”
The couple’s attorney, Robert Ranco with The Carlson Law Firm in Austin, said this case started as a civil one but has escalated to the federal courts because of the alleged constitutional violations.
According to Ranco, if Young had approached Juan as a civilian, not an agent of the law, the case would have remained at the state level.
Ranco said the case involves the couple’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment deals with unlawful search and seizure. The Fourteenth Amendment deals with due process of law and equal protection under the law.
“A big part of our lawsuit is to determine what the appropriate amount of force is,” Ranco said in an interview with the Hays Free Press.
The Hays Free Press reached out to city of Buda officials, but they were unable to comment on an open case.
The Buda Police Department did released an official statement on Oct. 7 regarding the incident.
“The City of Buda is disappointed at … the timing of the filing of the lawsuit … which appears to be a transparent attempt to poison a jury panel in the upcoming case. It (Buda) will not make any further public commentary in response to the story or the mere allegations,” the Buda PD statement reads.
It is unknown if Young is still employed and/or actively working with Buda PD.
The exact time of the Oct. 17 trial has not yet been set.