Video shows physical altercation between suspects, Nacogdoches County deputy
NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Four people have been arrested and one is at-large following an incident in the Garrison area in which the suspects allege excessive use of force by the responding deputy.
The Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call at 11:59 p.m. that a man was in the road of Highway 59.
The sheriff’s department says the deputy did not find the man, but a dog walker allegedly alerted the deputy to a house that had a reported disturbance.
Betty Perez, one of the women involved in the altercation in the video says the deputy began asking about the person in the road.
“He says, do y’all know who walking down in the middle of the highway? We said, ‘no we don’t know.’ ‘Well, that was our call, that someone was walking down the middle of the highway,’ and I said, ‘well, we don’t know, I’m sorry.’ He told my son-in-law he needed to identify himself to me. And I asked what crime did he commit that he has to identify himself for, there’s been no crime,” Perez said.
Perez then says he hopped the fence onto their property.
In a Facebook Live video, Sheriff Jason Bridges says the deputy encountered a female who was very hostile toward him.
The video shows the responding deputy standing on the ground in the yard while one of the suspects, later identified as Leah Guzman, 29, of Nacogdoches, yells at him. Guzman is seen repeatedly cursing at the deputy from the porch before she comes off the porch.
“So in the video you see the deputy in the yard by himself, he’s the only deputy on scene at the time. I think that’s extremely important, throughout the video up until the use of force is encountered the deputy is not being aggressive at all, he’s being very passive” Bridges said.
The deputy tells Guzman, “If you take a step closer to me I’m going to knock you out.”
“I suggest you get her back on the porch,” the deputy said.
The sheriff says Guzman spit toward the deputy.
At about the three-minute mark, the video shows Guzman wave an arm in the deputy’s face and the deputy reaches for Guzman, knocking her down. Guzman’s mother, Betty Louise Perez, 50, of Nacogdoches, rushes to Guzman and the deputy, but the deputy strikes Perez in the face before going back to Guzman and appears to try to detain Guzman. After that, a few people rush to the deputy, and the deputy draws his gun for a few seconds before holstering it and taking out his Taser.
Guzman says her mom was coming to protect her.
“When he attacked me, a mother’s instinct is to go for their kid, and when she went for me because he was attacking me for no reason. He just punched her and knocked her out” Guzman said.
Sheriff Jason Bridges released a video statement on Facebook Wednesday afternoon. Bridges said the deputy’s actions were appropriate. Bridges did not identify the deputy.
Bridges explained the deputy, who in arrest affidavits is identified as Eric Newell, was in the area of the 16000 block of U.S. 59 north of Nacogdoches for a welfare check and was looking for someone who was reported as walking down the middle of the road. Bridges said the investigation led the deputy to this home, and the deputy had a right to be on the property because he was investigating a welfare concern. Bridges said the deputy was waiting for backup when several people became hostile toward him.
“This deputy has over 20 years experience,” Bridges said. “Some people need to be talked to in different ways. You have to let them know what your reaction is going to be if they keep acting that way.”
After more deputies arrived, Guzman and Perez were placed under arrest. Guzman was charged with assault of a public servant, resisting arrest and criminal mischief. Perez was charged with interference of public duties. Also arrested in the incident were Sarah Mellissa Russell, 30, of Tenaha, and April Julissa Cavazos, 20, of Nacogdoches. According to arrest affidavits, they interfered with arrests after other deputies arrived.
Bridges said Edgar Guzman fled the scene when deputies arrived. A warrant is out for his arrest. In the video, Edgar Guzman identifies himself as Leah Guzman’s husband.
“It’s not a pretty situation, but it’s a situation he had to deal with,” Bridges said.
Sheriff Bridges has not taken any questions and did not respond to our requests to talk about the incident. He’s asking for any other video that was recorded of the incident to be sent to them, adding that the deputy’s bodycam was damaged when it was torn off his uniform during the incident.
They plan to ask a third-party to try to extract the bodycam, the sheriff says.
Copyright 2022 KTRE. All rights reserved.