El Paso is in the national spotlight again. Again, it’s for all the wrong reasons.
Shortly after he graduated from high school in El Paso, José Oliva served in Vietnam, spending the war’s deadliest year in charge of 12 men, all of whom survived. When he came home, Oliva spent decades working in law enforcement. But Oliva suffered his most dangerous engagement after he retired, when he was brutally choked and beaten by police while trying to see the dentist.
In February 2016, Oliva went to his VA hospital in El Paso for a routine dental appointment. Oliva waited in line at a security checkpoint, placing all his belongings (including his ID) in a plastic bin. One of the officers manning the metal detector, Mario Navar [sic], twice demanded Oliva to show his identification. Both times Oliva tried to explain that his ID was in the bin.
Agitated, Nivar forced Oliva into a chokehold. Another officer, Hector Barahona, grabbed Oliva’s arm so violently, it “made a loud popping sound.” After subduing the 70-year-old veteran, Nivar and Barahona handcuffed Oliva and charged him with “disorderly conduct.” Though that charge was ultimately dropped, the assault inflicted lasting damage, forcing Oliva to undergo two surgeries for his shoulder and treatment for PTSD.
. . .
[W]hen Oliva tried to sue the officers for violating his civil rights, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals used an obscure legal loophole to toss his lawsuit. Undeterred, Oliva has joined forces with the Institute for Justice and filed a cert petition on Friday urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case. Failing to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s decision would leave “an enormous constitutional vacuum” that allows “thousands of federal police in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana to disregard the Fourth Amendment.”
This is that doctrine of “qualified immunity” that our El Paso Police Department supports. Qualified immunity allows three armed security guards to escape civil penalties for beating up a 70-year-old veteran on his way to the dentist at the VA.
Helluva country we’ve got here.