Federal suit settled – Gatesville avoids blame for cops beating couple

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Sgt. Chris Eubank, McLennan County Sheriff’s Office

Waco – When Gatesville Police Patrolman Spencer Rowell answered a call at Jennifer Snoddy’s residence back in December, 2012, she was very upset with a prowler who was attempting to break into a neighbor’s house.

Though Rowell told her to “shut up” several times, she continued to talk to him in an agitated manner, so he poked her in the face and forced her arm behind her back, according to the federal complaint settled today in U.S. District Court.

That’s when Sgt. Chris Eubank arrived. He promptly helped throw Mrs. Snoddy on the ground, handcuffed, before he used his TASER gun on her husband.

Her husband dashed out into the yard clad only in a towel after their son alerted him as he showered that two cops had cuffed his mother and thrown her on the ground. She later claimed she suffered from two ruptured discs in her spine as a result.

The patrolman used his TASER gun to subdue Mr. Snoddy.

Eubank followed the ambulance to the hospital where doctors removed the electrical prongs from Mr. Snoddy’s skin because, according to Snoddy, he, Eubank, “wanted to make sure there was no trouble.”

Then he released the man without filing any charges.

Jurors never had a chance to hear a forensic expert’s testimony taken in a deposition that the dash camera video taken by both officers had obviously been altered. According to the expert, such tapes are supposed to start when an officer activates his emergency lighting equipment. Both tapes began after Mrs. Snoddy is depicted in a verbal dispute with the officers.

The Judge allowed the City of Gatesville to be severed from the civil suit for violation of the couple’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. They did not file an affidavit of probable file with a Magistrate. Jurors never heard their attorney explain, as he had in the words of the suit, that handcuffing a person and taking them away from their home in the absence of probable cause is an example of an unreasonable seizure.

Attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendants announced they had reached an agreed settlement, the details of which are private and the records of the judgment sealed by the Court. Gatesville City officials and their insurance carrier admitted no wrongdoing, nor did they take any responsibility for what happened to the Snoddys.

Both Eubank and Rowell left the Gatesville Department to work for newly-elected Sheriff Parnell McNamara following his victory in a hotly contested and close primary race. They put up signs and helped with organizing campaign meetings and rallies during the build-up to the election. Eubank used vacation time he had accumulated while working as a police officer at Gatesville to work on the campaign.

Sheriff McNamara did not conduct thorough background checks on them as required by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Records obtained from a mole inside the Sheriff’s Office, which were later matched by those obtained through a Public Information Act request, show that Rowell’s employment with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office was terminated following a drunken brawl at a local apartment complex in which several Corrections Officers argued over a single woman and marijuana smoking in the parking lot.

A records check later showed that Rowell had been terminated, according to a document filed with the Commission. A letter of resignation found in the official file added to the confusion.

To further complicate matters, records show that Eubank, who was at that time a Lieutenant in an office that dealt with employee records, training, pre-employment investigations, and the like, shredded records involving Rowell’s employment and termination from the Sheriff’s Office.

He later resigned from that position, but changed his mind and accepted a new job at the lower pay grade of Sergeant when Sheriff McNamara re-hired him. He is now a patrol supervisor on deep night shift.

Rowell lost his job as a patrolman at the Clifton Police Department in September when he was terminated for reasons Chief of Police Trace Hendricks declined to explain. He would neither confirm, nor deny that Rowell’s termination had anything to do with his former employment situation at Gatesville or McLennan County.

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