A Texas police officer has been jailed after a police affidavit revealed he allegedly battered, without provocation, an innocent female pedestrian who happened to be walking near the scene of an unrelated late-night traffic stop.
The affidavit, written by another police officer who reviewed documentation of the May 29 incident, alleges Cpl. James Palermo of the San Marcos Police Department had stopped a car at about 1 a.m. for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. As he questioned the driver, he noticed the pedestrian — whom the affidavit alleges didn’t look at or talk to either Palermo or the stopped motorist and didn’t exhibit any “suspicious” behavior — and called her over to the scene, where he began questioning her about walking near the scene.
The woman, 22-year-old Texas State University student Alexis Alpha, told Palermo she didn’t believe she had done anything wrong. Their interaction became more acrimonious when she couldn’t immediately produce the identification Palermo allegedly had demanded.
As the officer dialed up the verbal heat, the victim allegedly advised him to conduct traffic stops elsewhere if he didn’t like where she was walking, called him a “dick” and observed that he appeared to simply be exorcising his pre-existing bad mood on her.
She had no idea.
Palermo allegedly responded by grabbing her, pushing her against the stopped motorist’s Toyota Prius, and then slamming her to the concrete, where he sat on her back. He allegedly cuffed her and placed her in his patrol vehicle, telling her she was being arrested for obstruction.
The assault knocked out two of Alpha’s teeth. Palermo took her to Central Texas Medical Center, where medical staff advised her she also had sustained a concussion and would need follow-up care, which could involve multiple surgeries. So Palermo took Alpha to the jail and slapped on two more charges: resisting arrest and public intoxication.
Alpha never filed a complaint over her assault. In fact, the police themselves discovered Palermo’s attack after reviewing footage from his patrol car’s dashboard video camera. The department obtained warrants for his arrest following an internal investigation and booked him into the Hays County Law Enforcement Center on July 16 for aggravated assault with serious bodily injury by a public servant — a first-degree felony that carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. He had been on paid administrative leave since the internal investigation had begun in early June, and is now on indefinite unpaid leave as the legal process unfolds.
San Marcos Police Chief Howard E. Williams told the San Marcos Mercury:
I won’t prejudge the [internal] investigation. I have not heard what the officer has to say yet and I’ll reserve judgment until that happens. But there are standards and I think it’s fairly obvious what we think about his conduct that night in that we were the ones that went down and filed the criminal charges. … I believe what he did was criminal.
Palermo, who had worked for the department since 2000, was the subject of a complaint two years ago alleging excessive use of force, but that complaint was dismissed.
Read the affidavit, filed by San Marcos Officer Penny Dunn, here.