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Officer sues Dallas for back pay after firing overturned

By CLAUDIA LAUERSeptember 16, 2016

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas police officer who won reinstatement to the department last year filed a lawsuit Thursday against the city and police Chief David Brown alleging they have not paid him his entire back salary.

Officer Jesus Martinez was fired in 2014 after a bystander videotaped the end of an altercation in which he pinned a panhandler to the ground. A grand jury decided not to charge Martinez with misdemeanor official oppression and he was reinstated by a civil service review board.

Martinez and his attorneys contend that the city failed to fully reimburse him after that 2015 civil service decision. He said at a press conference Thursday that the city deducted the income he had made working part-time jobs during his almost yearlong effort to get his job back.

“The city wrongfully fired me. Then it wanted to penalize me for getting my job back,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he has not felt other retaliation since being reinstated to the force. A handful of officers in uniform stood in the back of the room during his press conference at a venue in the Deep Ellum neighborhood.

A spokeswoman for the Dallas Police Department referred questions to the city attorney. The city attorney’s office did not respond to messages seeking comment, but a city spokeswoman said the city attorney is reviewing the lawsuit and did not have an immediate comment.

Martinez’s attorney, Andy Atkins, said he would not discuss the amount of back pay deducted, saying the officer, “wished to be made whole.” The lawsuit also seeks damages for suffering and undermining Martinez’s reputation.

Community members rallied around Martinez during his appeal, making T-shirts that said, “Save Jesus” and marching to City Hall alongside Dallas Police Association members who also supported him.

“He used to hang out here when he was a kid, and now he patrols this neighborhood,” said Raine Devries, a member of the group Deep Ellum Neighbors. “I was gutted when I heard the city’s decision (to fire him). Jesus is one of the good ones. He takes the time to get to know the community and the residents.”

Atkins alleged that the investigation conducted by the city and department was biased toward firing Martinez. He said many witnesses to the full encounter in 2014 were never interviewed.

The lawsuit recounted some of the details including that Martinez was having trouble seeing because of blow back from pepper spray and that the man continued to resist arrest even after being on the ground.

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