HOUSTON – A Houston area man is now suing the Harris County Sheriff’s Office after alleging that an off-duty deputy punched him several times at a Houston restaurant two years ago.
The lawsuit alleges that on March 21, 2021, deputies Lee Ingle and Christopher Sutton “grabbed Evan [Norman] and escorted him towards the front door which included pulling on his shirt, pushing, and swear words by Ingle,” after an employee at the restaurant asked him to leave.
The lawsuit claims “Bombshells served Evan at least seven alcoholic beverages within a two-hour time span.”
While outside, the lawsuit states Norman asked for the badge numbers of both deputies to file a complaint.
“Both Sutton and Ingle were irritated by Evan’s requests for badge numbers,” the lawsuit states. “Ingle then rushed at Evan and took him to the ground and began punching him on the head and face. As he was beating Evan, Sutton was holding Evan down and Sutton was encouraging Ingle to strike Evan. At the time of the beating, Evan was secure and Evan did not attempt to kick, strike, punch, or otherwise assault any person. After the severe beating, Evan was handcuffed.”
Court documents show Norman was charged with assaulting a peace officer for the incident.
Norman then hired George Reul who, for the better part of a year, investigated the event.
“He was helpless on the ground. They were punching him on the face,” Reul said. “I mean even if you’re an MMA fighter or boxer, when you get on the ground, the referee stops the fight. It escalated. It escalated to the point where customers at the bar [and] people standing there were making comments.”
Reul said he was going back and forth with prosecutors trying to get every available footage of the incident. About 21 months after the events, he received the remaining pieces of the body camera footage.
“It wasn’t [until] around Christmas of last year that we were able to secure a dismissal, and that came shortly after the release of the last videos,” said Reul at a Thursday press conference outside the Harris County Detention Center. “They just can’t do whatever they want to citizens of Harris County. We’ve got laws and they need to be enforced, and they need to be followed. And when you break them, you need to be held accountable.”
At the press conference, Dan Barton announced the federal lawsuit and a civil lawsuit against Bombshells Restaurant & Bar and its corporation owner, RCI Hospitality Holdings.
“Bombshells is no stranger to trouble and alcohol-related incidents,” Barton said. “We’ve sued Bombshells and RCI for over-serving Mr. Norman. Clearly, they served him until he passed out and was a clear danger to himself and others.”
KPRC 2 did not get a response from RCI Hospitality Holdings at the time of this article.
The lawsuit claims Norman had “fractures of the nasal septum,” nasal bone fractures, and several other injuries due to the incident.
“I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Norman said. “I have a ton of respect for police officers. It just doesn’t seem right to just get beaten. Shoved. Pushed. Just all this stuff, and I just don’t want it to happen to anybody else.”
Deputies are allowed to work extra off-duty jobs while upholding all department policies even if they are out of uniform, according to the office’s general orders.
“Any employee who is involved in, or is aware of, an incident arising from extra employment that might adversely affect the HCSO or Harris County and could require investigation or review shall report such incident to the EEU and the employee’s chain of command, in writing, within twenty-four (24) hours,” according to the general orders. “Workers’ compensation, public liability, or legal representation benefits provided by Harris County may not be available to employees who work extra employment.”
Former Harris County Sheriff deputy Robert Amboree said the actions of the deputies in the video are inexcusable.
“He’s choking him. That is totally wrong. Using improper language,” Amboree said. “They’re not following protocol, and that’s definitely not the proper way to make an arrest or go about trying to calm things down. And then they come back.”
Amboree worked in the sheriff’s office for 20 years. He said even if the deputies were working on their own time, it’s known to law enforcement that they’re “never off duty.”
“You’re representing the sheriff because you have sheriff on your shirt. It’s clear. All that stuff he was doing was inappropriate because he was still antagonizing him,” Amboree added.
An official with the sheriff’s office said they do not comment on pending or open litigation. The spokesperson for the Harris County Attorney’s Office said they did not have a comment on the lawsuit.