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Federal Appeals Court Admonishes Police Department For Arresting Black Good Samaritan Who Apprehended Drunk Driver

Judges from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals chastised the Houston Police Department after officers lied to falsely arrest Austin Hughes in 2019.

A Black man who called the police after witnessing an alleged drunk driver leaving the scene of a crash and holding him for law enforcement was then arrested by the police and charged with impersonating law enforcement. The police officers then allowed the drunk driver to leave. A three-judge panel chastised the Houston Police Department for arresting the man.

According to The Houston Chronicle, a federal appeals court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rebuked the police department after they wrongly arrested Austin Hughes in 2019. The former police officer was working as a part-time security guard when he called 911 after seeing a drunk driver crash his vehicle and attempt to get away by running in traffic. He chased the driver and used handcuffs to restrain him until police officers arrived on the scene.

Instead of arresting the driver, the police officers let him go and then arrested Hughes on charges of impersonating law enforcement.

“This case does not involve excessive force, or split-second decisions, or the chaos of a chase,” Judge Andrew Oldham wrote in the decision. “Rather, it involves a simple, clearly established rule that all officers should know at all times … Do not lie.”

Although there was another eyewitness who also called 911 and gave the operator the same description of what happened, as well as the driver admitting he was drunk and failing a sobriety test, the officers still allowed him to leave while arresting Hughes.

HPD patrol officer Michael Garcia did not write about that in the sworn affidavit he handed in to support the charges filed against Hughes. Yet, Garcia and his partner, Joshua Few, believed the intoxicated man’s story. He told them that Hughes attacked him and pretended to be a police officer.  

Hughes’ criminal defense lawyer, Paul Doyle, said, “You just wonder what motivated those officers. We can’t get people to respond to aggravated robberies and murders, but they’re gonna go after a Good Samaritan who happens to be African-American and go out of their way to arrest him when crime is rampant in our city. Like, actual crime.”

Both police officers are still on the force, and it is unknown if they were ever disciplined.