BEAUMONT, TX (KTRE) - A former San Augustine police officer who is accused of assaulting a 60-year-old man who was about to be booked into the county jail back in 2015 is now facing a federal deprivation of rights under color of law charge.
The federal charge was filed on Thursday.
A plea hearing is scheduled for Christopherr Wheeler at 2:15 p.m. today at the federal courthouse in Beaumont.
"On or about July 28, 2015, in the Eastern District of Texas, Christophe Wheeler, defendant, while acting under color of law, did physically assault W.C., thereby willfully depriving W.C. of the right, secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, namely the right to be free from the use of objectively unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer," the federal document stated.
The document also states that the charge carries a possible sentence of up to one year in a federal prison and fine of up to $100,000.
East Texas News obtained a copy of the original arrest affidavit in the case back in August of 2015. Wheeler turned himself in at the San Augustine County Jail on Aug. 12, 2015, and he was charged with two Class A misdemeanor official oppression charges and a Class A misdemeanor assault charge.
He posted a bail amount of $15,000 and was released from jail a short time later.
According to the arrest affidavit, at the request of San Augustine County District Attorney Kevin Dutton, Texas Ranger Steve Rayburn and an FBI agent reviewed video of Wheeler arresting Wallace Charles Clifton at about 11 p.m. on July 28, 2015, along with surveillance footage of Clifton arriving at and being booked into the county jail a short time later.
Rayburn said he also looked at Wheeler's official arrest report and talked to a San Augustine PD sergeant and two jailers that were present at the jail when the alleged assault occurred.
When Clifton was arrested, he was charged with consume on premises prohibited, disorderly conduct, and public intoxication. At the scene of the arrest, Clifton complained that his handcuffs were too tight, and Wheeler adjusted them, the affidavit stated.
After Wheeler and the San Augustine PD sergeant secured their weapons at the jail, Clifton complained that the handcuffs were hurting him and told Wheeler that he would beat him, the affidavit stated.
Clifton kept using profanity and directed his bad language at Wheeler, the affidavit stated. In the affidavit, Rayburn said the video showed Wheeler direct Clifton into an iron door jamb as they simultaneously walked through it, causing Clifton's right shoulder and the right side of his chest to slam into the jam.
Clifton exclaimed, "Oh! You stupid son of a b----," according to the affidavit.
When they got to the booking desk, Wheeler removed Clifton's handcuffs, and at that point, Clifton told him he was stupid and again told the officer that he was going to beat him, the affidavit stated.
"Once the handcuffs were removed, Officer Wheeler backed away from Clifton," the affidavit stated. "Clifton faced Officer Wheeler and appeared to challenge Officer Wheeler by facing him in somewhat of a fighting stance. Clifton asked Officer Wheeler what he was going to do."
According to the affidavit, Clifton called Wheeler a "b----," and told him to "take that stuff off, and I'll whoop you."
The San Augustine PD sergeant that was with them at the jail tried to de-escalate the situation by re-directing Clifton's focus away from Wheeler. The affidavit said that measure only worked temporarily.
"Clifton spit in his own right hand and told Officer Wheeler, 'Let go. What you wanna do for now? Come get you some.'" the affidavit stated. "Officer Wheeler raised his arms in a fashion to suggest that he was there and ready for the challenge."
After Clifton cursed Wheeler out again, he turned to the SAPD sergeant and said that Wheeler needed to be fired.
When Clifton raised his hand to point at Wheeler, the SAPD officer allegedly lunged at Clifton and used both hands to grab the man's neck. While he was still holding him by the neck, Wheeler pushed Clifton up against the booking desk, cursed at him, and threw him to the ground, causing his head to hit the concrete floor, the affidavit stated.
Wheeler then allegedly stood over Clifton and told him to get up.
The SAPD sergeant that was present put himself between Wheeler and Clifton and directed the officer away, the affidavit stated. Clifton appeared to be dazed and only semiconscious, the affidavit stated.
Wheeler allegedly yelled at Clifton, challenging him to get up and attack him.
As Clifton tried to get up, Wheeler said, "I'm still waiting on that a-- whooping," the affidavit stated.
A jailer/dispatcher told Rayburn that although she couldn't hear what Wheeler and Clifton had said to each other, she heard a loud "plop" when Clifton's head hit the floor, the affidavit stated. She added that it was the worst thing she had seen in her six years of employment at the jail.
"After several seconds, Clifton crawled to a nearby chair," the affidavit stated. "He began using the chair to raise himself off the floor. Officer Wheeler kicked the chair out from under Clifton, causing him once again to fall to the floor."
Wheeler allegedly told Clifton to "get your a-- up."
At that point, the SAPD sergeant told Wheeler to leave. When the officer refused, the SAPD sergeant ordered him to leave again, and Wheeler walked into the sally port.
The affidavit stated that the SAPD sergeant called an ambulance to the jail, so paramedics could treat Clifton. He also notified his chief and the on-duty jail supervisor.
The jailer/dispatcher said the next day, she noticed a knot on the back of Clifton's head that was larger than a golf ball, the affidavit stated.
On Aug. 11, 2015, Rayburn and a DA investigator traveled to College Station to talk to Clifton in person. He told them that he had been assaulted by a San Augustine Police officer, the affidavit stated.
The affidavit stated that Wheeler "separated" from the San Augustine Police Department on July 30, 2015, and that he had worked there for a year and four months. Wheeler has been a certified peace officer since 2000.
Dutton said that Clifton has a history with the San Augustine Police Department.
Clifton had a previous violent run-in with the San Augustine Police Department in March of 2014. After a San Augustine Police officer found him in the middle of the road screaming profanities around small children, Clifton allegedly resisted arrest to the point that the officer deployed a Taser on him.