Federal judge dismisses McAllen from excessive force lawsuit

A federal judge has dismissed the city of McAllen from a lawsuit brought by man who was thrown to the ground in handcuffs and kicked in the face in 2016 after spitting at an officer.

The litigation against the two officers, one who was fired and convicted of official oppression and the other who resigned, remains open.

Aaron Soto, a 28-year-old Alamo resident, filed the lawsuit against the city and former McAllen officers Ulysses Bautista and Luis Zuñiga on May 14, 2018, two years and one day after he was pulled over in downtown after making a wrong way turn on a one-way street at around 1 a.m.

The officers would arrest Soto for driving while intoxicated.

Dash cam video of his arrest shows a routine traffic stop turned violent after a handcuffed Soto spit at Zuñiga while being placed into the back of a squad car.

After he spit, Zuñiga yanks Soto from the back seat and throws him to the ground as Bautista kicks him in the face.

Soto alleges this is excessive force and “was unwarranted under (the) circumstances and was objectively and subjectively unreasonable when comparing or balancing the amount of force used against the need for force.”

His attorneys say he posed no “risk of harm” because he “made no aggressive action toward (them) and nothing he did could be interpreted as threatening.”

Soto also says the former officers “did not have a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm when they exercised excessive force in the detention and arrest.”

U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa dismissed McAllen from the litigation on April 21, court records show.

Hinojosa heard arguments on Zuñiga and Bautista’s motions for summary judgment that day as well, but did not immediately rule.

Both Zuñiga and Bautista deny Soto’s allegations and claim they are immune from the litigation.

A hearing on their motions for summary judgment is scheduled for late May.