SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio recently released video from a San Antonio police officer's in-car camera system that shows the officer agreeing to engage in a fight with a suspect in his custody and then verbally berating him when he refused to fight.
When the KSAT Defenders originally requested the video, attorneys for the city challenged the request and sought an opinion from the Texas Attorney General's Office. Eventually, the attorneys dropped the challenge and released the video.
The video gives a glimpse into what unfolded between SAPD officer Matthew Belver and his prisoner Eloy Leal in the back seat of Belver's patrol car.
Belver had arrested Leal last August for interfering with the duties of a public servant at the scene of a shooting.
Belver was given an indefinite suspension for violating several of the department's rules and regulations which he is now appealing.
The nearly 17-minute-long video begins with Leal already in handcuffs sitting in the back seat of Belver's vehicle.
The first 20 seconds of the video is muted but when the audio comes on you can hear Belver telling Leal he will remove his handcuffs so the pair can fight.
"As soon as they come off, I'm gonna beat your a**, that's what I'm going to do. You ready?," Belver is heard saying. "There you go, there you go, now you can get out. Let's go, run, do something, do something." With the cuffs removed Leal stays in the patrol car and refuses to engage in the fight with Belver and even apologized for disrespecting the officer.
Belver seems disappointed as he removes Leal from the car and places the handcuffs back on him.
"I thought something was going to come out of this. I thought you were going to (expletive) fight, like you said," Belver is heard saying. "You had me all excited, I was ready for it."
As Belver drove Leal to the Bexar County Magistrates Office to be booked he is heard berating Leal for what he calls Leal's "disrespectful behavior" and calls him out for not fighting.
"You're like, Hey cop can I walk through here? Hey some investigation you guys did. Who talks to people like that?" Belver is heard saying. "You had the chance to run, to fight, to do whatever, but you didn't because not only are you stupid you're a coward."
The Defenders showed the video to Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officer's Association.
Helle said, while Belver never should have removed Leal's handcuffs or verbally berated him, his infractions do not rise to the level of being terminated.
"I think it was the end of his shift, he was tired, he works graveyards and I think this guy just got underneath his skin and it was something that he shouldn't have let that happen to him," Helle said.
Belver was given a 30-day suspension for a similar incident that happened in 2009 which resulted in a conviction being overturned on a suspect he arrested.
Helle said Belver has been a model officer since then, something he believes should be taken into account in this case. "Matt had a problem with force issues and I think in the last five to however many years he's been back he has not had a single issue at all," he said.
Belver is appealing his indefinite suspension which is expected to be heard by an arbitrator later this year. It will be up to the arbitrator to decide if the suspension stands or if Belver gets his job back.
Helle said there is more video of the incident and it shows what led up to Belver arresting Leal. Helle said he's been told the video shows Leal being disrespectful to Belver.