By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
A federal lawsuit alleging excessive force was filed Thursday against a Killeen ISD police officer, alleging he struck a 14-year-old female student in the face.
On Tuesday, KISD and another family agreed on an undisclosed settlement in a similar case involving the same officer.
The charges were filed in the U.S. District Court's Western District of Texas in Austin by attorneys for Carol A. Perez on behalf of her daughter, who was 14 when the incident occurred on May 25, 2006. The suit lists KISD officer Kenneth Edmiston as the offending party, and also includes charges against KISD Chief of Police Walker M. Veal, Director of Safety John Dye and Superintendent Jim Hawkins in their capacities as officials of KISD.
The suit alleges Edmiston became violent with the girl, who was with at least two others at the time of the event. The suit states that Edmiston shoved her out of the way while engaging in a heated discussion with another student. It says Edmiston then swung his elbow around and hit the girl in the face with enough force to knock her unconscious. When she came to, her lower lip was busted and her upper lip swollen.
The suit states surveillance video of the event may be used at the time of the trial, and refers many times to the girl's 4-foot, 10-inch, 110-pound frame.
The lawsuit does not specify any intent on Edmiston's part and does not allege it was a purposeful act.
The filing of the lawsuit comes two days after KISD and the family of 17-year-old Khandiese Cooper agreed to an undisclosed settlement in a similar case involving the same officer, but different victims.
KISD officials said Thursday that the law prevents the district from commenting on any pending litigation.
An official did confirm that, as of Thursday evening, Edmiston was still employed by KISD.
Testimony from Cooper's trial is referenced in the Perez lawsuit, saying Vice Principal Jennifer Key testified before the jury that she saw Edmiston use similar force to what was alleged in the Cooper suit – that of slamming Cooper into a wall multiple times.
Longtime Bell County defense attorney John Galligan, who has tried many cases in the federal system, said the Perez case was filed in federal court because Edmiston was an employee "acting under the color of state law."
The same language is often used in police brutality cases under U.S. Code 42:1983, Galligan said, addressing civil rights violations as outlined in the Fourth and 14th amendments. Attorneys for Rodney King sued the Los Angeles Police Department in the early 1990s alleging similar violations under that code.
Perez is represented by the law offices of Vic Feazell, who represented Cooper and her family during the 15 months since that case was first filed against Edmiston on Feb. 13, 2007.
Feazell said Thursday that they have been waiting to file this latest lawsuit for more than six months until the other case against Edmiston had concluded. Feazell said it expands to include all of Edmiston's superiors because they should have known he was capable of doing it again.
"I think he's a loose cannon," Feazell said Thursday.
Feazell said the administrative officials were particularly targeted in the Perez lawsuit because KISD is guilty of deliberate indifference to constitutional rights by repeatedly failing to log and act on documented complaints registered by parents toward offending officers.
Feazell said that he expects this case to last at least a year before reaching trial, just like the one that settled Tuesday.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.