Forth Worth nut cop William Figueroa has been back on patrol duty since June 1. He never lost a day’s pay. He was never punished in any way and records of the administrative review of his actions are sealed and are not available to the public.
Figueroa was video recorded on March 13 spraying a pack of sport bikes with pepper gas.
That afternoon, multiple drivers complained to police about sport bike riders performing stunts on Highway 287. Figueroa observed a pack, although there is no proof he caught them breaking any traffic laws. Instead he passed the pack and stopped a pickup truck driven by a woman named Brittany Botella for “blocking traffic to record motorcycles driving recklessly” with her smartphone.
Then as the bikes passed by, Figueroa squirted pepper spray at them.
In a document that was released, Figueroa explained, “While attempting to make contact with the driver, multiple motorcycles would not vacate the lane closest to my marked patrol car. I deployed my pepper spray into the lane closest to me at which point approaching motorcycles began to vacate the lane allowing me to conduct a traffic stop.”
The spray actually seems to have had minimal effect on the motorcycle riders but it did blow back into Botella’s face. She was six months pregnant at the time. She told television station KXAS “I looked out my mirror and I seen all the Mace going towards all the bikes. And then it hit us. And then I started choking and that’s exactly what happened.”
Markus Hernandez, an asthmatic passenger in the back of Botella’s truck had to be hospitalized. Botella was cited for driving without a license. Hernandez was cited for standing in the back of a moving vehicle.
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The incident never would have been exposed to the public if two members of an informal riding club called East Texas Heat hadn’t shot the video and uploaded it to YouTube.
After the video went viral, the Fort Worth Police Department removed Figueroa from uniformed patrol and gave him a desk job for ten weeks until the news cycle turned a score of times and the furor was forgotten.
Earlier this month, John Butrus of the website motorcycle.com filed an open records request to find out how and when Figueroa had been punished. Fort Worth police told Butrus they believe the documents are exempt from disclosure but did not offer any further explanation.
Under Texas law, documents related to a police internal affairs investigation can only be released to the public if that investigation results in a punishment of at least a one-day suspension.