Expert witness says former guard's actions against inmate unlawful

Former BCSO Detention Officer Avery Lawrence facing official oppression charges

SAN ANTONIO – According to a state’s rebuttal expert witness, a Bexar County detention officer did not follow proper training techniques when he punched an inmate during a scuffle inside the jail’s annex in the summer of 2014.

Avery Lawrence, who has since been fired, was working as a detention officer on the afternoon of July 13, 2014 when he was involved in a verbal confrontation with inmate John Cory Garcia.

Both men testified during Lawrence’s trial on official oppression charges that Garcia shoved Lawrence during that confrontation.  And that Lawrence responded with a blow to Garcia’s face.

“Officer Lawrence is not the first officer to ever be pushed,” Chuck Joiner, a prosecution expert witness, testified on Friday. “And what officers are trained to do when they’re pushed is not to immediately come in and strike someone. It’s not lawful to start punching and beating a person because they pushed you.”

According to testimony, the two struggled following the blow to Garcia’s face and Lawrence pushed him to the floor and struck him in the back with his knee. Garcia suffered a broken rib, a punctured lung and facial injuries.

Joiner testified that Lawrence did not follow proper law enforcement training.

“What is taught is that officers first give a verbal command, because then you have time and space,” he testified. “And if that doesn’t work, the next thing is to come in with soft hand techniques.”

Closing arguments are set for Monday in Judge Melisa Skinner’s 290th District Court.

If he is found guilty, Lawrence faces a maximum punishment of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

About the Author

Paul Venema is a courthouse reporter for KSAT with more than 25 years experience in the role.

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