Fam­ily’s beach trip turns into night­mare

Man with leukemia says Galve­ston cops bru­tally at­tacked him

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - CITY | STATE - By Nick Pow­ell STAFF WRITER

Isaac Wal­ton rose out of bed on Aug. 15 at the Ocean Inn Mo­tel on Sea­wall Boule­vard feel­ing re­laxed. It had been more than eight months since he re­ceived a har­row­ing di­ag­no­sis of acute myeloid leukemia, but Wal­ton’s re­lent­less pos­i­tiv­ity kept his spir­its high. It was the day be­fore his mid­dle daugh­ter’s sixth birth­day — an oc­ca­sion more than wor­thy of a fam­ily trip to Galve­ston — and he was de­ter­mined to start the day off right.

Yet, the peace­ful sum­mer morn­ing ended with the 32-yearold blood­ied and bruised, dropped off at the emer­gency room by the same Galve­ston po­lice of­fi­cers he says as­saulted him with­out cause.

The al­leged in­ci­dent left Wal­ton, who is al­ready weak from chemo­ther­apy and near-daily blood and platelet trans­fu­sions for his can­cer treat­ment, with blurred vi­sion in his left eye, headaches and fre­quent night­mares. Wal­ton’s at­tor­neys, Joe Mathew and Bran­don Cam­mack, plan to file a fed­eral law­suit against the city of Galve­ston and four city po­lice of­fi­cers in the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the South­ern Dis­trict of Texas, al­leg­ing that the of­fi­cers abused their power by com­mit­ting ag­gra­vated as­sault against Wal­ton and vi­o­lat­ing his con­sti­tu­tional rights.

“On Aug. 15, Isaac Wal­ton was bru­tally as­saulted by four po­lice of­fi­cers from the Galve­ston Po­lice Depart­ment,” Mathew said. “They stomped him, choked him, kicked

him and tased him twice. What was the rea­son? We don’t know. He was not com­mit­ting a crime. He was not vi­o­lat­ing any law. He has never been in trou­ble be­fore. I think Isaac Wal­ton, his fam­ily, his kids, the peo­ple in gen­eral, we all de­serve an an­swer as to what hap­pened, and why?”

Reel­ing and bloody

Wal­ton had a short to-do list when he got up that morn­ing at the Ocean Inn: fix a flat tire from the drive from League City the pre­vi­ous evening and get some break­fast for his wife, Janet, and three chil­dren.

He walked out of the mo­tel and down Sea­wall Boule­vard. Taken with the pris­tine view of the Gulf of Mex­ico, Wal­ton said he walked down to the beach and out onto a jetty just west of Galve­ston’s fa­mous Plea­sure Pier. Wal­ton said he was stand­ing on the jetty when he felt some­one grab his right arm.

He turned around to see a Galve­ston po­lice of­fi­cer.

Wal­ton, who has a “pick line” in his left arm that con­nects di­rectly to his heart for chemo­ther­apy, said he im­me­di­ately warned the of­fi­cer to be care­ful with his left arm. If the pick line is pulled out of his arm or dam­aged, Wal­ton could bleed to death.

“When the first of­fi­cer grabbed my arm, I im­me­di­ately (said), ‘Hey sir, I have a pick line, I have leukemia on the other side,’” Wal­ton said.

Af­ter the sec­ond of­fi­cer slammed Wal­ton on the ground, pin­ning his right arm be­hind his back, two other Galve­ston po­lice of­fi­cers, one of whom is a sergeant, joined the fray. With three of­fi­cers hold­ing Wal­ton on the ground, a fourth of­fi­cer, later iden­ti­fied as Sgt. An­gela Ro­jas, tased him twice in the back.

“The only thing I could think about was how am I go­ing to make it out of my sit­u­a­tion alive or at least get back to my fam­ily,” Wal­ton said.

Wal­ton was reel­ing — a con­tu­sion on his left eye, and bleed­ing from his left tem­ple, with abra­sions on his neck, arms and back. Wal­ton said at no point did the of­fi­cers say why they were ar­rest­ing him or why they ap­proached him on the jetty in the first place.

Po­lice tell an­other story

A prob­a­ble cause af­fi­davit pro­vided by the Galve­ston County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice pro­vides a dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent ac­count of the in­ci­dent.

The af­fi­davit states that Brian Ans­ley, a field train­ing of­fi­cer, and David Roark, a pro­ba­tion­ary po­lice of­fi­cer, re­sponded to a wel­fare con­cern in the 3000 block of Sea­wall Boule­vard re­gard­ing a “His­panic male who ap­peared to have been beat up and could hardly walk,” and that the sub­ject — Wal­ton — got into the wa­ter fully clothed.

Ans­ley and Roark ob­served Wal­ton stag­ger­ing on the far end of the jetty and that he ig­nored ver­bal com­mands to “stop,” show­ing signs of want­ing to jump into the wa­ter, the af­fi­davit states.

Ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit, Wal­ton did not com­ply, turned around and faced the of­fi­cers as they walked to­ward him, and re­moved his shirt. Roark then grabbed Wal­ton's right wrist while Ans­ley grabbed his left wrist to try to gain con­trol of Wal­ton. When Ans­ley grabbed Wal­ton's left wrist, he pulled, away caus­ing Ans­ley to fall on the rocks.

As Ans­ley and Roark tried to gain con­trol of Wal­ton, “Sgt. Ro­jas drive stunned Mr. Wal­ton in his up­per back with her Taser to try and get him to com­ply with our com­mands,” the af­fi­davit states. Wal­ton was then hand­cuffed and placed in a po­lice car.

The af­fi­davit con­cludes: “Due to Mr. Wal­ton's pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions and ill­ness, he was not ac­cepted at Galve­ston County Jail and was trans­ported by (Ans­ley) and Ofc. Roark to (John Sealey Emer­gency Room) for med­i­cal care.”

In­deed, Wal­ton was never booked or charged with a crime while at the sta­tion. Rather, the of­fi­cer who slammed him on the ground ap­proached him to apol­o­gize for the in­ci­dent and of­fered to drive him to the emer­gency room, Wal­ton said.

Wal­ton, who said at that point he was “dazed and con­fused,” ac­cepted the of­fer. He said two of the of­fi­cers dropped him off at John Sealey Hos­pi­tal at the Univer­sity of Texas Med­i­cal Branch and told the triage nurse that they found him in the con­di­tion he was in.

With no idea where her hus­band was taken, Martinez called the po­lice sta­tion, but they had no record of him be­ing booked. Pan­icked, she called her sis­ter and mother to come meet her in Galve­ston to look af­ter her chil­dren.

Her sis­ter picked her up to take her to the hos­pi­tal to look for Wal­ton when they found him at 3 p.m., sit­ting down slumped against the side of the Ocean Inn Mo­tel. Wal­ton had de­clined treat­ment at the hos­pi­tal, ask­ing only for al­co­hol wipes to clean him­self up. He then walked over 2 miles back to the mo­tel.

Martinez and her sis­ter took Wal­ton to MD An­der­son Can­cer Cen­ter in Hous­ton later that night, where Martinez sub­mit­ted a po­lice re­port to a Univer­sity of Texas at Hous­ton po­lice of­fi­cer. That re­port notes that when she went out­side the mo­tel to see what the po­lice ac­tiv­ity was about, she spoke with Sgt. An­gela Ro­jas, one of the of­fi­cers that de­tained Wal­ton, who told her they “re­ceived a call about an in­di­vid­ual that was stum­bling and ap­peared to be beaten up.”

The Galve­ston Po­lice Depart­ment filed a prob­a­ble cause af­fi­davit on Aug. 15 charg­ing Wal­ton with re­sist­ing ar­rest. It is not clear when the af­fi­davit was signed and ap­proved by a mag­is­trate judge. As of Sun­day, the war­rant for Wal­ton was still not pub­licly avail­able.

A spokesman for the League City Po­lice Depart­ment con­firmed that Wal­ton was ar­rested and booked for the re­sist­ing ar­rest charge in League City on Sept. 6, more than three weeks af­ter his en­counter with Galve­ston po­lice. He was driv­ing with his wife and daugh­ter to pick up his son from foot­ball prac­tice when he was pulled over and ar­rested.

On Aug. 17, a UT-Hous­ton po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tor re­ferred the po­lice re­port to Sgt. An­dre Mitchell, who works in the Galve­ston Po­lice Depart­ment’s Of­fice of Pro­fes­sional Stan­dards. Wal­ton’s at­tor­neys, Joe Mathew and Bran­don Cam­mack, also con­tacted Mitchell re­quest­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Doug Balli, the as­sis­tant po­lice chief for the Galve­ston Po­lice Depart­ment, said in a phone in­ter­view that an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion ex­on­er­ated the four of­fi­cers — Ans­ley, Roark, Ro­jas, and Of­fi­cer V. M. Cadena.

“The in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion showed that there was no wrong­do­ing on the of­fi­cers’ part and any use of force they uti­lized was jus­ti­fied to make the ar­rest,” Balli said. He added, “There was some men­tion that (Wal­ton) had ad­mit­ted he was in an al­ter­ca­tion prior to the po­lice in­ter­act­ing with him.”

Wal­ton’s at­tor­neys deny that, as well as the ac­count pre­sented in the af­fi­davit.

“There is no way Isaac is go­ing to jump in the wa­ter, the sec­ond he gets that pick line wet, he’s dy­ing, he can­not get it in­fected,” Mathew said.

His at­tor­neys say it is highly un­usual for a re­sist­ing ar­rest charge to be filed weeks af­ter an in­ci­dent.

“They knew the com­plaint was com­ing so they try to cover their butts and end up fil­ing a war­rant for his ar­rest for re­sist­ing ar­rest,” Cam­mack said of the Galve­ston po­lice. “What the of­fi­cers have done is they com­mit­ted an ag­gra­vated as­sault, and they did it with their badge un­der the color of law,” Cam­mack said. “If that were any other per­son off the street, they’d be fac­ing a grand jury down in Galve­ston County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice for of­fi­cial op­pres­sion, ag­gra­vated as­sault, you name it.”

On Sept. 21, Mathew and Cam­mack wrote a let­ter to Ver­non Hale, the Galve­ston po­lice chief, re­quest­ing record­ings, body and dash­board cam­era footage, foren­sic ev­i­dence from any weapons used or dis­charged dur­ing the Aug. 15 in­ci­dent, as well as any pho­to­graphs taken of the of­fi­cers in ques­tion af­ter the in­ci­dent. They also plan to file a com­plaint with the Galve­ston County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s pub­lic in­tegrity di­vi­sion.

“We are go­ing to find out ev­ery­thing,” Mathew said.

They have yet to re­ceive a re­sponse from the po­lice depart­ment, and be­cause the re­sist­ing ar­rest charge has still not been posted pub­licly, Wal­ton does not yet have a court date.

Ef­fect on kids ‘very sad’

Wal­ton hopes that his leukemia di­ag­no­sis al­lows him to hold on long enough to see some mea­sure of jus­tice. Wal­ton had to cease chemo­ther­apy treat­ments shortly af­ter the in­ci­dent, his body no longer re­spond­ing pos­i­tively to the ra­di­a­tion.

Left with few op­tions, Wal­ton is sched­uled to re­ceive a stem cell pro­ce­dure in hope that it will gen­er­ate new cells to fight the dis­ease. In the mean­time, he re­ceives blood and platelet trans­fu­sions ev­ery other day at MD An­der­son Can­cer Cen­ter to keep the dis­ease from rav­aging his body.

“If I don’t get this (stem cell) pro­ce­dure, I will die,” Wal­ton said.

Nearly two months later, there are still vis­i­ble scars from the Aug. 15 in­ci­dent on his wrists and abra­sions on his back. Two sep­a­rate taser marks dot his up­per and lower back. But Wal­ton says the most last­ing dam­age is that it has shaken his chil­dren’s faith in the in­sti­tu­tions de­signed to pro­tect them.

Wal­ton said his 13-year old son has been lash­ing out, punch­ing walls in anger. His 3-year old daugh­ter shuts down when he tries to talk to her about what hap­pened, curl­ing up on his chest in si­lence. His 6-year old daugh­ter — whose birth­day they were cel­e­brat­ing that day in Galve­ston — “thinks all cops are bad now,” the byprod­uct of wit­ness­ing her fa­ther re­turn home on Aug. 15 look­ing like a bat­tered shell of his for­mer, sunny self.

Wal­ton thinks about how close he was to dy­ing that day in Galve­ston. He won­ders whether he was stopped by po­lice be­cause of the color of his skin. But he says for the sake of his fam­ily’s hap­pi­ness, he puts on the best face he can to soldier on.

“I want them to only no­tice pos­i­tiv­ity,” he said. “No neg­a­tiv­ity, none. Only pos­i­tiv­ity. The rest of that I’ll keep in­side.”

“I have to tell (my 13-year old son) that you can­not put your­self into a sit­u­a­tion (with po­lice) be­cause even if you are not do­ing any­thing wrong, you could not come home one day,” Wal­ton said. “And that’s sad. It’s very sad.”

Jon Shap­ley / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Isaac Wal­ton, who is be­ing treated for acute myeloid leukemia, was al­legedly tack­led and tased by three Galve­ston po­lice of­fi­cers in a case of mis­taken iden­tity.

Cour­tesy at­tor­neys for Isaac Wal­ton

Wal­ton with his wife, Janet Martinez, some­time af­ter the in­ci­dent he says caused his health to worsen.

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