June 30, 2016 (Fault Lines) — According to a pending lawsuit, a woman who was sexually assaulted by a La Joya police officer while in custody was offered a taco instead of medical assistance after his supervisors watched the surveillance video.
The assault was recorded on the department’s surveillance cameras on May 29, 2014, while the assailant, Officer Felipe Santiago Peralez III, worked the night shift as a dispatcher.
The lawsuit alleges that, after “Autumn Renee” was booked and brought to her cell, the La Joya officer “began an all-night invasion” of her body. She claims that Peralez assaulted for hours with his fingers and hands, forced her to perform oral sex on him and left her with severe bruises. According to a report from the Texas Rangers, Peralez is seen “engaging” with the victim 49 times while she was in custody.
To make matters worse, La Joya police Lt. Ramon Gonzalez watched the video footage the next day, but rejected the woman’s multiple entreaties for medical attention, according to the lawsuit.
But he did offer her a taco for her trouble. From the lawsuit:
On May 30, 2014 [defendant] Lieutenant Ramon Gonzalez reviewed the video recording, questioned plaintiff (A.R.) about the incident from the night before, obtained her statement, offered her a taco, declined her request for medical attention and released her to [defendant] Peñitas police Officer Elizabeth Garza without offering her medical attention or counseling.
The lawsuit further claims that Garza tried to silence the victim with threats, telling her that “she should forget all about the incident and go on with her life, because ‘people come up missing all the time in the valley.’”
Peralez was arrested a year later, after Texas Ranger Robert Garcia got wind of the assault and got his hands on the incriminating surveillance video.
In August 2015, a Hidalgo County grand jury charged Peralez with three counts of civil rights violations and one count of official oppression. He was sentenced to only 180 days in state jail and 30 days in county jail after pleading guilty to official oppression and one civil rights charge.
“Autumn Renee” has sued Peralez, the City of La Joya, its former and current police chiefs, its city administrator and several La Joya police chief. She also sued the City of Peñitas, its police chief and two other officers. The lawsuit states:
The extreme and illegal assaults and body cavity searches deeply traumatized plaintiff to the extent that she is now under the care and mental evaluations of a psychologist because of the outright disregard for plaintiff’s rights under the Constitutional principles that should have protected plaintiff’s vested rights to privacy and her dignity. The fact that local city governments of La Joya Texas and Peñitas Texas treated a female prisoner (with a mental disability) with such blatant brutality and inhumanity should outrage contemporary society.
“I’d like everyone to reserve judgment until all the facts are released and both sides are heard,” La Joya city attorney Roberto Jackson said.
Peñitas City Manager Omar Romero said he would reserve comment until the city was officially served with the lawsuit.
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