AUSTIN, TEXAS – Army Ranger Captain Antonio Buehler is continuing his fight with the Austin Police Department.
Buehler filed a formal complaint Monday against the police officers he tussled with in a New Year’s Eve melee. The complaint will now prompt an internal investigation by APD.
The Iraq war veteran is skilled in the art of combat, but he has proven himself very skillful in waging war in the court of public opinion and on social networks.
But Buehler’s final battle will be in a real courtroom. He’s charged with harassment of a public servant (a police officer), which is a third degree felony.
How it all started
Buehler’s latest war started on New Year’s Eve. He stopped to get gas at the 7/11 at 10th and Lamar. Little did he know he would soon find himself at the middle of a growing furor over the Austin Police officer’s handling of a traffic stop and their alleged abuse of power.
2012 was less than two hours old. It was a “no-refusal” weekend, and Austin Police officers were out in full force looking for drunk drivers.
Buehler was the designated driver that evening, driving his buddy and his buddy’s truck home from a party. He admits to having one beer, but that was about five hours before he stopped for gas at the 7/11 at 10th and Lamar.
While he was pumping gas, he watched as police officers administered a field sobriety test to the driver of a black sedan that was pulled over at the gas station.
“She was in high heels and she was freezing,” he says.
“Then we noticed the bulkier, dark-haired cop walking over to the passenger side and opens up the door. The next thing we know, we hear a very loud scream.”
The officer began pulling another woman, the passenger, from the sedan.
“She’s flying out the door,” Buehler said. “The officer yanked her out the car, to her knees on to concrete, twisting her arms behind her back. The other officer joins in. They have her arms locked behind her back and they lift her up that way.”
The woman in the passenger seat was 28-year-old Norma Pizana, from San Antonio. Pizana told FOX 7 she was left with “bruises all over my arm.”
Pizana says she was trying to advise her friend to say “no” to a field sobriety test when she was pulled from the car for “interfering” with the field sobriety test.
That’s when Buehler decided not to look the other way.
“We couldn’t just get back in the car and drive away.”
“She was screaming and crying, she was in so much pain,” Buehler said. “My friend and I started taking pictures. She saw us taking pictures. And then she begged us, ‘Please film this,’ because she knew she was being assaulted.”
One of the officers, later identified in Buehler’s arrest report as Pat Oborski, said: “Who do you think you are? Why are you taking pictures?”
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Although Buehler admits to screaming back at the officer, telling him to leave Pizana alone, he insists he “never did anything aggressive.”
But Oborski’s report says otherwise. It claims Buehler, in addition to interfering with police business, assaulted the officers by spitting on them.
“Only a fool would spit on a cop that has a badge and a gun,” Buehler maintains. Still, he was wrestled to the ground (“I was putting my hands up and I was trying to stay stiff, because I saw what they did to that female, and I didn’t want to get a broken arm or a dislocated shoulder”), handcuffed and—he says—armlocked as if they wanted to dislocate his shoulder.
“I said, ‘What are you trying to do, break my arm?”
The officers took Buehler to a mobile blood alcohol testing facility.
“I said, you know what, I’ll take the test because I want to see how ridiculous the score is.”
Buehler took the Breathalyzer test twice, but the officers wouldn’t tell him what—if anything—it measured. But he wasn’t charged with DWI that evening.
Buehler claims that after the officers impounded his friend’s truck, they took him to the paddy wagon, where Oborski told him: “You don’t f*** with cops. You don’t get in our f***ing way. You don’t question us, and we’re going to teach you a lesson.”
Neither Pizana nor Buehler were charged with interfering with police, but she was charged with public intoxication and he was charged with third degree felony harassment of a public servant, which could mean up to ten years in prison. Odd, since spitting in a cop’s face merits an assault charge, which is even more serious.
Pizana’s lawyer, Mindy Montford, told The Digital Texan the police have a long history of using the public intoxication statue as a “crowd control” measure or “as a way to arrest someone who may question their authority and not because an individual actually displays signs of public intoxication.”
“It is a purely subjective offense requiring nothing other than the officer’s discretion,” Montford said. “No other statute in the code allows for as much potential abuse by the police .”
Pizana was released the next morning, and Buehler was released around 9 p.m. Jan. 1. Pizana’s friend, the driver who was the suspect of the initial DWI stop, spent over 24 hours locked up.
“The bottom line is two cops assaulted two citizens who broke no laws. But on top of that, they created a false charge to send someone to prison,” said Buehler.
So, a suspect claims he is innocent and cries foul. What’s the big deal?