May 20, 2024

DALLAS — Dallas police officials handed down written reprimands Tuesday to four officers seen on video mocking a disabled veteran who urinated on himself after he was denied the restroom.

The department’s assistant chief over patrol, Reuben Ramirez, decided on the officers’ discipline after an afternoon hearing with the officers and other commanders. Police also decided to mandate sensitivity training for the officers, officials said.

Department spokeswoman Kristin Lowman would not release the findings or discipline, instead referring a reporter to file an open records request. She declined to comment further.

The discipline came after months of pressure from Dallas’ civilian police watchdogs and four days after The Dallas Morning News published an investigation detailing how the oversight office that brought veteran DyNell Lane’s case to light lost its authority to investigate complaints and its control over what grievances could be reviewed.

A written reprimand is a form of formal discipline the department hands down that will go into the officers’ files but won’t, by default, affect their pay or status. It’s a step below a suspension but is more severe than the department’s forms of “summary discipline,” which include advice and counseling or a supervisor’s report.

Dallas’ police oversight office has identified two of the officers as James Smith and Juan Figueroa Luna. The names of the other two have not been released. An attorney representing the officers declined to comment.

The incident drew outrage from around the world after Lane, a retired Army sergeant, told Dallas’ Community Police Oversight Board in August that two off-duty officers working security at a Deep Ellum pizza joint around 2:15 a.m. on June 10 refused to review his medical paperwork to let him use the restroom.

Lane, who said he was wounded while deployed in Afghanistan and Kuwait as an army sergeant, called 911 for help, but soiled himself and left before two on-duty officers arrived.

Body-camera footage shared by Dallas’ police oversight office shows all four officers burst into laughter at the restaurant, Serious Pizza, while recounting how someone “pissed themself.”

“So you guys made a guy pee himself?” one officer says, then laughs.

One of the off-duty officers smiles and says, “Yeah.” The officers say Lane called 911 about the officers, and an officer says, “He called 911 on us?”

The officers respond “yeah” and one of the off-duty officers yells “ahhh!” and slaps his knee as he laughs loudly.

“He got mad you guys wouldn’t let him use the restroom and then he calls back and said it’s OK he doesn’t need to pee anymore because he soiled — ” an officer says before the other one shuts off their body camera.

The footage went viral, sparking an onslaught of outrage from oversight board members and the public.

Many states — including Texas — have a restroom access law known as “Ally’s Law,” which says people lawfully in an establishment should be allowed access to a restroom if they provide evidence they have a medical condition that requires immediate access to a toilet facility.

Lane, who has previously called for the officers to be fired, declined to comment Tuesday.

Dallas police’s internal affairs division, which handles administrative reviews, initially declined to investigate Lane’s complaint. After the oversight office presented the case and The News first wrote about it in August, the department opened an investigation.

Since then, Dallas’ Office of Community Police Oversight — and the civilian board, which works with the office and is made up of 15 members appointed by City Council — have been immersed in turmoil.

The city’s inaugural police monitor and an investigator left their positions in the weeks after the Lane case went viral, the search for replacements has been muddied by unexplained delays, and oversight board members said they feel paralyzed and confused about how to fulfill their mission after sudden limitations to their power, The News’ investigation found.

More recently, a report dated March 6 from the oversight office’s interim director — Elaine Chandler, formerly an employee relations manager in Dallas’ HR department — told oversight members they had operated incorrectly the past few years and oversight is not allowed to review complaints that DPD deemed a “no investigation.”

Under that interpretation of the ordinance that governs oversight, Lane’s case never would’ve been brought to oversight, board members pointed out at last month’s meeting. Board members erupted in anger over the legal opinion, which Chandler said she’d asked for after police officials brought the issue to her attention.

Board members have continually decried the length of time it has taken the department to complete the Lane investigation. Irene Alanis, the police major over internal affairs, told the board in September she expected the DPD investigation would be resolved in “less than a month.”

Dallas police Chief Eddie García told The News last week that he understands the frustration with the Lane case but wouldn’t characterize the time it has taken as a “delay.” He has said one of the involved officers was on family medical leave, and the attention the case has received won’t affect his response or the process.

He did not provide comment Tuesday afternoon.

Dallas’ Community Police Oversight Board was scheduled to gather for its monthly meeting Tuesday night, where oversight and police officials are expected to discuss the update on the Lane case.

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©2024 The Dallas Morning News. Visit dallasnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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