HOUSTON – A woman run over by a Houston police mounted patrol officer on May 29 intends to sue the city over the incident. Melissa Sanchez, 20, was attending a protest over the in-custody death of George Floyd when the incident occurred, one block from police headquarters.
“I didn’t have anybody else to go with, I went alone that day,” Sanchez said. “I loved how I seen the different faces, different bodies, different energies. We were all a family together.”
Sanchez said she carried a sign that read, “Pro-Black isn’t anti-white,” and it was important to her to add her voice to those calling for greater police accountability.
“Before the incident the energy was amazing,” Sanchez said.
A bystander’s video captured the moment Sanchez was hit from behind and knocked to the ground by a mounted patrol officer. The video shows Sanchez was walking slowly, holding a sign at chest level and her back was toward the mounted patrol officer. The horse then surges forward and knocks Sanchez to the ground. From the video, it is not clear why the officer and his horse suddenly lurched forward.
“A few seconds before I heard the whistle, that’s when I felt myself fall to the ground,” said Sanchez. “It happened so quick. It’s scary, it’s sad, it’s traumatizing.”
Shortly after the incident, the video began circulating on social media. The video prompted Mayor Sylvester Turner to tweet an apology even before Sanchez’s name was known.
“People have the right to demonstrate and march, our job is to protect them and their rights,” the mayor said during a May 31 news conference.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo also responded to the incident at the end of May. Acevedo said he believes the run-in was an accident and the officer was focusing on a scuffle taking place a short distance from where Sanchez was standing.
“Officers were taking rocks. I would ask the public to look at where that mounted officer’s gaze it at, he’s looking right ahead,” Acevedo said during a May news conference.
Sanchez said she still has questions about the officer’s actions.
“Why didn’t he stop? Why didn’t he just get off? There’s so much that’s still open,” said Sanchez.
She is represented by attorney Ben Crump, who also represents George Floyd’s family.
“This lack of respect, this lack of dignity, this lack of humanity. I mean he’s supposed to be the professional,” said Crump.
Corpus Christi attorney Bob Hilliard also represents Sanchez.
“Melissa was lucky, you know, a 1,200-pound hoof didn’t land on her head or on her back and paralyze her,” said Hilliard. “That incident easily could have been the last thing in her life,”
In a letter to the city, Crump and Hilliard wrote that Sanchez sustained injuries to her knee, legs, back and neck. The letter reads she will settle claims with the city for $5 million to cover medical bills and lost wages. Sanchez said she also wants a direct apology.
“And I’m not speaking through text and social media. I want a person, face-to-face. I want to know that you actually feel sorry for this,” said Sanchez.
Even though both Turner and Acevedo spoke following this incident, neither would comment further because of the pending lawsuit. An internal affairs investigation was also launched and HPD officials said that investigation is not yet complete.