BAYTOWN, Texas – A Baytown police officer was seen in surveillance footage punching a man and deploying his K9 officer to help apprehend him at a gas station Tuesday.
Baytown police said the man, identified as James Liberto, is accused of throwing hot coffee at the officer inside the store before the officer reacted.
“That is what preempted the officer striking the suspect several times in the face and head,” said Baytown Police Lieutenant Steve Dorris.
Liberto, 59, had been arrested on Sunday and Monday for public intoxication.
“This particular suspect had just been released from our jail just minutes before he went down to the store. When we tried to release him from our jail he wouldn’t even comply with that, he winds up in the lobby of our jail pulling the fire alarm and running out,” Dorris said.
Shortly after police said he appeared to walk to the Conoco gas station located on Main Street, a block away from the police department.
The store clerk said he called 911 after Liberto was being rude to customers and refused to pay for several items.
A surveillance video obtained by KPRC 2 from inside the gas station, shows the officer punching Liberto multiple times and deploying a K9 officer to subdue him.
After the altercation, Liberto was charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer and sent to a Harris County jail, officials said.
The police department said they will conduct an internal investigation. The officer, a 14-year veteran of the department, is expected back on duty tomorrow.
In the video, Liberto is seen near the entrance of the store. The officer approaches him and is seen waving for Liberto to come towards him. Liberto appears to hesitate.
The officer grabs Liberto and punches him at least four times as he falls to the ground, the video shows. The officer also falls to the ground during the alternation.
The video shows the officer stand up and try to drag Liberto out of the store. He is seen kicking and fighting.
The officer then rips Liberto’s shirt off, which loosens his grip on him, the video shows. The officer ends up outside the glass door with Liberto still inside. Liberto is seen blocking the entrance of the gas station when the K9 officer appears. Police say the officer remotely deployed the K9.
The officer is seen pulling the door open and the K9 runs into the store and tackles the man on to the ground, the video shows.
In the video, the K9 appears to be biting the man who is on the ground. At one point, it appears as though the officer attempts to pull the K9 officer off of the man.
About 30 seconds after the K9 was deployed, two more officers came to the first officer’s aid.
As the three officers tried to arrest the man, one of them appears to shock the man with a taser, the video shows.
The scuffle continues for a few more seconds when more officers enter the gas station.
The video ends with at least seven officers in the gas station as some of them continue to try to get Liberto under control.