Officer who 'ripped' man out of car handed nearly monthlong suspension

Joshua Knowles initially pulled driver over for tinted taillights, report says

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio police officer who "ripped" a man out of his vehicle during a traffic stop for tinted taillights in June was issued a nearly monthlong unpaid suspension, disciplinary documents revealed.

Officer Joshua A. Knowles pulled a man over at Kennedy Hill and Southeast Military Drive on June 17 and, according to suspension paperwork, told the man the traffic stop would go one of two ways depending on the driver's actions.

"This will go one of two ways: One, you're a hard a-- and I rip you out of your car, or two, you give me your ID," Knowles told the driver, according to disciplinary documents.

SEE KSAT'S SUSPENSION RECORD ARCHIVE

In a report for the traffic stop, Knowles wrote that he stopped the driver, identified as Deric Harris, for tinted taillights.

Knowles wrote that Harris told him his tinted taillights were legal and Knowles responded by asking Harris for his ID. The report states Harris told Knowles he "didn't do anything wrong," before Knowles asked for Harris' ID again. In the second request for Harris' ID, Knowles wrote that he told Harris he would have to "physically remove (Harris) from his vehicle" if he didn't provide his ID.

The report states Knowles opened Harris' door and tried to place him under arrest, but that Harris wouldn't "allow (officers) to detain him." Another officer who was with Knowles yelled that Harris had a bowie knife as Knowles tried to detain him.

Knowles said he punched Harris' head and face "roughly 20 times" while telling Harris to put his hands behind his back. Knowles said he threatened to use a stun gun as well, but Harris eventually put his hands behind his back. Knowles wrote he stopped punching Harris when the other officer was able to get him into handcuffs.

Knowles said Harris refused to give valid identifying information while in the back of his patrol car, but authorities located Harris' wallet and ran his background, which revealed he had six active municipal court warrants.

Harris was booked on the six warrants, resisting arrest and failure to identify himself while having a Texas warrant, the report states.

Harris filed a complaint against Knowles in relation to the traffic stop.

Investigators reviewed body camera footage after Harris' complaint and found that shortly before Knowles stopped Harris, he responded to a call in the 2500 block of Southeast Military Drive after several people reportedly congregated in the parking lots. 

When Knowles arrived at the scene, an unidentified officer near Knowles was heard calling someone a homophobic slur before telling them to "get the f--- out." When the unidentified officer was questioned about the slur and profanity, Knowles intervened, asking the person, "What the f--- are you gonna do?" and threatened to arrest the person if they didn't leave, suspension paperwork states.

Body camera footage also revealed Knowles' interactions with Harris during the traffic stop. 

Suspension documents state Knowles told Harris, "That's your f----ing problem, you don't listen," and that he "ripped (him) out of (his) car." Paperwork states Knowles also called Harris "hard headed," telling him he was "going to learn" and that Harris was "soft headed now."

Knowles was issued a contemplated suspension of 45 days without pay, but it was ultimately reduced to 27 days.

Knowles will serve his suspension in the new year, starting Jan. 4.

Knowles was one of 10 other officers suspended during the month of November:

Officer Nathan Mejia, suspended 30 days without pay: Suspension paperwork states Mejia was off-duty April 24 when he prevented a police officer with the San Antonio Independent School District from detaining his friend. Mejia put himself in the SAISD officer's path, allowing Mejia's friend to get away before the officer could detain him, according to suspension documents. Mejia was initially handed a contemplated indefinite suspension, which is the department's equivalent of termination of employment, but had the punishment reduced to a 30-day suspension.

Officer John Mendoza, suspended five days without pay for one incident and three days without pay for another incident: Authorities said Mendoza "failed to take action" to protect a small child from harm. Suspension paperwork states Mendoza was taking a report when someone notified him a child was dangerously close to an open window several feet above the ground. Documents state Mendoza stayed in his car and didn't immediately act on the information he was provided. The person who notified the officer asked for a supervisor to go to the location because they were dissatisfied with Mendoza's response. However, Mendoza "failed to immediately contact and inform an on-duty supervisor of such request," paperwork states. Mendoza was issued a five-day suspension in that incident. Authorities also found that Mendoza had worked at Mama Margie's Mexican Restaurant from January through July "at least 28 separate times" without an approved employment permit. He was issued a three day suspension.

Detective Jeffrey J. Walker, suspended one day without pay: Walker used profanity when talking to employees of the Texas Department of Public Safety and called one female employee a "skank," suspension documents allege.

Detective David Rodriguez, suspended one day without pay: Rodriguez was cited for violating the department's policy on searching prisoners. Rodriguez detained an individual on several warrants and charges in June and when the person arrived at the detention facility, an intake officer discovered "additional controlled substance contraband" in the prisoner's pocket. Rodriguez also muted his body camera three times without documenting reasons during the incident.

Officer Dezi Rios, suspended 15 days without pay: Rios was cited for his role in a road rage shootout that unfolded in the parking lot of a strip club. Rios was shot six times in the shootout and the suspect was paralyzed. Rios was also transferred out of his role as a trainer at the Police Academy. READ MORE

Officer Neil Rocha, suspended 10 days without pay: Rocha "negligently struck a vehicle" while on duty.

Officer Jacob Barcena, suspended three days without pay: Barcena hit a center median in a city-owned vehicle while on duty, according to suspension paperwork.

Officer Genova Avila, suspended one day without pay: Avila hit a fire hydrant while driving a city-owned vehicle on Sept. 24, suspension documents state.

Officer Julie Cortez, suspended one day without pay: Cortez, on Sept. 29, responded to a call and arrested a person. Suspension paperwork states she "hastened to the call ... (and) she forgot to activate her body worn camera."

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