NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – The fiancee of a man severely injured during an encounter with a Comal County Sheriff’s drug task force earlier this month said authorities used excessive force while trying to take him into custody in downtown New Braunfels.
Photos obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders of Armando Guzman, 26, show a significant injury to his upper lip as well as substantial swelling to his eyes and head. Guzman remains hospitalized nearly two weeks after the Jan. 8 incident.
Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds, however, disputed allegations of excessive force during an interview with KSAT this week, and the Comal County District Attorney’s Office is seeking permission from the Texas Attorney General to withhold all footage and a copy of the incident report.
On the morning of Jan. 8, Guzman took a walk from the motel that he and his fiancee, Julia Buchanan, were staying at for what she described as a staycation.
As Guzman was walking along the Interstate 35 frontage road and Highway 46 around 11 a.m., members of the Comal County drug task force approached him in unmarked cars, his fiancee told the KSAT 12 Defenders.
Guzman was wanted on a felony drug possession warrant, the sheriff said. Guzman ran away from the agents, who then chased him on foot and fired their stun guns at him, according to the sheriff.
Reynolds said a member of the task force, a New Braunfels police officer, fired a stun gun at Guzman but it did not have the desired effect.
Reynolds said a second member of the task force, a deputy with his agency, then fired his stun gun at Guzman, causing Guzman to fall head-first onto the curb.
“At no point in time was he ever beaten by our officers,” said Sheriff Reynolds, adding that Guzman suffered the injuries after falling onto the concrete curb.
Reynolds’ chief deputy on Tuesday said there is no law enforcement video of Guzman falling, only of his encounter with members of the task force prior to him running away and after he falls into a concrete curb.
The chief deputy did state that a camera from a nearby business recorded footage showing no punches being thrown by members of the task force, which is made up of New Braunfels Police Department officers and Comal County Sheriff’s deputies.
Still, the county’s district attorney did not fill an open records request for information and documents related to the incident and is instead appealing to the Texas Attorney General’s Office in an effort to keep it private.
Buchanan, Guzman’s fiancee, told the KSAT 12 Defenders in multiple interviews that Guzman was taken to a trauma hospital in Kyle and has had two surgeries to repair broken bones in his face.
“From what’s he’s told me, he was walking and I guess they approached him in a very uncomfortable way,” said Buchanan last week when describing why Guzman ran from members of the task force.
Buchanan agreed to an interview with KSAT scheduled for Wednesday, but canceled after an attorney retained by Guzman instructed her to do so.
Comal County jail records indicate that Guzman has not yet been formally booked for the Jan. 8 incident, but sheriff’s officials said Tuesday he will face the felony drug possession charge the task force was trying to take him into custody on as well as new charges of manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance as well as evading arrest with a previous conviction.
Suspects injured during encounters with law enforcement are typically booked within 24 hours, even if hospitalized, as part of a process called being booked by proxy.
Reynolds said Tuesday that his agency is unable to do that and will instead charge Guzman once he is released from the hospital.
Buchanan said after Guzman was injured, deputies showed up at a nearby motel room they were staying in.
According to Buchanan, the deputies told her Guzman was injured when he fell forward in a parking lot after a stun gun was used on him, a narrative repeated by Reynolds on Tuesday.
Buchanan points to the severity of Guzman’s injuries, including a broken jaw and stitches to several parts of his face, in disputing the validity of the sheriff’s account.
Buchanan also shared photos showing large scrapes on Guzman’s chest as well as what appear to be marks from stun gun prongs on his back and the back of his head.
Comal County Jail records show Guzman had an April 2017 arrest for felony drug possession under a gram, failure to ID, tampering with identifying information, unlawful carry of a weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
Deputies refused to provide details on the new drug charge.
Guzman pleaded guilty to the drug charge in September 2017 and the other charges were dismissed, Comal County records show.
Guzman had a previous conviction out of Brooks County for injury to a child as well as a previous arrest in Guadalupe County in June 2018 for charges of criminal mischief, evading arrest and theft of property between $2,500 and $30,000, according to a background check.
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