Two San Antonio police officers suspended for excessive force on handcuffed suspects, records show

Suspensions issued in unrelated cases after review of body worn cameras

Two police officers were suspended in unrelated excessive force incidents.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio police suspension records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders reveal suspensions for two officers related to excessive force incidents.

The department’s suspension records issued in November and December were released this week, months after they were initially requested.

In both unrelated incidents, body-worn camera reviews helped investigators determined that both officers violated department policy by using “unnecessary physical force” on handcuffed suspects.

One of those suspects is now awaiting his day in court, while another saw his case dismissed entirely, court records showed.

The Defenders have filed open record requests for all available footage associated with both incidents. One of those requests has already been sent to the Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on withholding the records due to an active case.

Officer Bianca Garcia

Officer Bianca Garcia was handed a 45-day suspension in November for her treatment of Gabriel Maldonado, who she arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest on April 26.

Garcia was responding to a disturbance involving Maldonado, according to the documents. A review of her body-worn camera led revealed that she slapped Maldonado’s phone out of his hand, going against department policy.

While Maldonado was handcuffed, Garcia allegedly threw him down onto the pavement, resulting in a facial injury. In his mugshot, Maldonado is pictured with visible bandages to his chin as a result of the incident.

Gabriel Maldonado, who was charged with resisting arrest, had his case dismissed, court records showed. (KSAT)

“Officer Garcia used unnecessary physical force against Mr. Maldonado while he was handcuffed,” according to the suspension record.

Online records show the charge levied against Maldonado was dismissed later that year in July.

Officer James Van Kirk

Officer James Van Kirk was suspended for 30 days between January and February for his handling of a handcuffed suspect who fled from a fatal accident in the 1100 block of S. Walters Street on June 13.

The suspect, Raul Alvarez, was a passenger in Leonel Martinez’s vehicle when Martinez allegedly ran a red light, causing a crash that injured one person and killed Destiny Rodriguez, 27. Martinez was charged with intoxication manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid, Bexar County court records showed.

Van Kirk tracked Alvarez down, handcuffed him and placed him in custody, according to the suspension document.

Alvarez “became belligerent,” according to the document, slamming his head against the patrol car. Van Kirk then removed Alvarez from the car, placing him face down on the ground.

Raul Alvarez is charged with assaulting a police officer. (KSAT)

Alvarez allegedly kicked Van Kirk as the officer tried rolling him over for crime scene investigators to take photos of him, according to the document. In response, Van Kirk punched Alvarez.

“That treatment was inhumane and subjected Mr. Alvarez to unnecessary physical violence,” officials wrote in the suspension order.

Investigators found other issues with Van Kirk’s treatment of Alvarez, according to the document. When Alvarez repeatedly asked Van Kirk if he spoke Spanish, the officer responded “by using verbally abusive, offensive and profane language.”

When Van Kirk held Alvarez down and Alvarez complained he couldn’t breathe, Van Kirk “replied with another offensive and profane comment in violation of policy.”

Though Alvarez was not charged in connection with the fatal crash, he was charged with assaulting a police officer for allegedly kicking Van Kirk. Court records show Alvarez is out bond while he awaits trial.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.