Keller, Texas lies roughly 30 miles northwest of Dallas. The city’s population is 87 percent white, and Latino residents often feel targeted by the Keller police. For father and son Marco and Dillon Puentes, that perceived targeting became a reality on August 15, 2020.
That was the day the two left their home in separate vehicles to visit a relative. En route, Marco, 39, saw police pull Dillon, 22, over. Dillon was ordered to leave his car and placed in handcuffs. His father began recording the incident with his cellphone, only to find himself pepper-sprayed and handcuffed after an officer saw him filming. Police car dash cam and the officer’s body cameras captured the scene.
After the incident, Puentes filed a lawsuit against the city in federal court in Fort Worth, alleging police brutality, the racial profiling of Dillon, and civil rights violations. The lawsuit named Sergeant Blake Shimanek and Officer Ankit Tomer as defendants. In late January 2021, the city announced it had agreed to settle the lawsuit for $200K.
A Wide Right Turn
Shimanek pulled Dillon over for “making a wide right turn,” as per his statement. He described Dillon as “very nervous.” Shimanek stated he thought Dillon was “going to evade in a motor vehicle” so he ordered him out of the car and handcuffed him. He said that due to his training and experience, he had reason to believe Dillon had narcotics or weapons in the car. A later search revealed neither present in the vehicle.
When Marco came upon the scene, Shimanek told him to move his vehicle as he was blocking the roadway. Marco complied, but began filming the incident. Shimanek and Tomer then arrested him for Interference with Public Duties, but not before Marco was pepper-sprayed by the former. Both officers used force when arresting Marco.
The father and son were taken to jail. There, the police department decontaminated Marco after the pepper-spraying. Charges against Marco were dropped. Dillon had to pay a fine for making the wide right turn and was then released. As per the body cam video, Marco had not been blocking the roadway but was legally parked along the curb when Shimanek told him to move the car or face arrest.
Shimanek was demoted to officer as a result of the case. He is eligible to reapply for his former position after one year. He allegedly violated the Texas Penal Code’s General Orders regarding conduct toward arrested persons and his role and authority.
City to Pay Just $5K
Keller’s news bulletin announced the Puentes family settlement against the two officers. The city’s own contribution toward the settlement amount is just $5,000. That is the deductible on Keller’s liability insurance policy. The rest of the settlement is the responsibility of the Texas Municipal League’s intergovernmental risk pool.
Marco Puentes’ attorney said his client was happy with the settlement. The fast result was “worth it,” according to the lawyer, and Puentes managed to hold the police in question accountable.