HOUSTON – Houston activist group FIEL held a news conference Wednesday, asking for justice in what was described as a violent arrest of a teen in northeast Harris County.
During the news conference, they asked for justice for 16-year-old Carlos Rodriguez, who was arrested in early April.
According to attorney Alexandra Farias Sorrels, who is representing the family, Rodriguez was at the gas station filling up his four-wheeler when Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Burt Dillow walked out of the convenience store carrying a soda, said, “Hey boy!” and started addressing the teen in a demeaning way.
The officer then asked for Rodriguez’s license and tells him to put his hands behind his back. According to the attorney, Rodriguez was confused because there was no reason for him to be arrested so he started looking around. Sorrels said that is when the deputy punched Rodriguez, threw him on the ground and punched him some more while he was down.
Sorrels said this is Dillow’s first time being involved in a violent arrest. She said that in 2002, Dillow was investigated in connection with the choking death of a Hispanic man in Baytown.
Sorrels said there were several witnesses at the gas station during the altercation, which is good.
“I think this video, for Carlos, truly proves his case,” Sorrels said. “It also shows a pattern of violent behavior in this particular deputy.”
Rodriguez spoke about his experience, saying what happened to him was not right.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through,” Rodriguez said. “The officer had no right to come at me and treat me the way he did. I was thinking that the police are here to protect us and he literally attacked me. I don’t know who to trust anymore ... how can I (trust them) if I was literally attacked by a police officer for no reason.”
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez acknowledged the lack of professionalism that happened during the incident, saying, “We are aware of an incident in which one of our deputies used physical force and unprofessional language against a suspect at a convenience store on Friday. The incident is under internal investigation and the deputy is being placed on administrative duty.”
FIEL issued a call to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office for justice for Rodriguez saying it is important to hold people like Deputy Dillow accountable for their actions.
They are asking for a full, formal investigation to be launched and for Dillow to face charges and be removed from his position. Sorrels said if the deputy is not removed, it is likely he will behave violently again.
Carlos Rodriguez Sr. echoed the sentiment and said the violence his son faced was not necessary. He said there needs to be a deeper look into members of law enforcement to ensure they are not racist or behave in racist ways.
“I don’t want others to suffer like my son has,” Rodriguez Sr. said.
Sorrels said as far as she knows, Dillow is on desk duty and has not been terminated.