Two cops fired after attacking a veteran for being a 'fake American'
Spencer Sutton and John Galman, two rookie officers operating in New Orleans, were arrested and charged with simple battery this week after an incident at a bar on Tuesday. The pair, who were on their probationary employment period after graduating from the police academy last year, were off duty at the time of the attack.
The victim of the assault, George Gomez, was hospitalised with severe injuries after the incident, and has since been released.
"They didn't like the way that I was dressed," Gomez told the New Orleans Advocate. "They kept telling me I was not an American citizen and I was a 'fake American.'"
Gomez is a US native who was raised in Honduras and returned to live in New Orleans. After questioning his citizenship, the officers asked whether he served in the military. Gomez explained that he had served with the Louisiana National Guard from 2009 to 2014, which was later confirmed in court. However, Sutton and Galman were not satisfied with his answers and an argument soon ensued. Galman struck Gomez with "an opened hand and fist," while Sutton also delivered blows.
The officers continued to harass him outside the bar despite Gomez's his attempts to avoid them, urging the man to eventually walk home from the bar. Yet when he tried to leave his house in his car later on, he was stopped in the middle of the road by the two men once more. Once he exited the vehicle, Gomez explained to WWLTV that they told him, "'We are gonna kill you,'" before assaulting him again. "It was a violent fight," Gomez said. "It just took me by surprise."
According to court records obtained by the New Orleans Advocate, Sutton told investigators he did not remember what happened during the incident, and both officers pleaded not guilty to their charges. Galman reportedly told the court that Gomez had waited for the officers to leave the bar before initiating the fight.
In a statement, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison explained that the various eyewitness accounts and footage of the incident "clearly demonstrates that our offices were the aggressors in this incident".
"Members of our department are expected to comply with the law and adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct, whether on or off duty," Harrison said.
In addition to this, the president of the New Orleans City Council, Jason Williams, condemned the officers' "despicable, repulsive, racist acts of violence," while describing Gomez as "a good and kind man," and a patriot.
"I am sorry for the pain and anguish that has been inflicted on you.
"Those two officers do not represent the dedicated hardworking men and women of the NOPD. What they did disparages them and us as a city. Mr. Gomez, again on behalf of the City of New Orleans, I am sorry and thank you for the service to our country."
A Police and FBI task force is "actively looking into whether this case meets the elements of a potential civil rights violation," a spokesperson for the NOPD told Buzzfeed News. Their bond has been set at $1,500 each, while the ongoing investigation determines whether they deserve any further charges.