Taser ‘frenzy’: Groves hearing, Day 2

Published 7:10 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2018

GROVES — Attorney Greg Cagle took Groves City Marshal Norman Reynolds to task under cross-examination Wednesday, the second day of an arbitration hearing that centers on the demotion of a Groves police officer.

Cagle, who represents the Texas Municipal Police Association, said the city of Groves paid $350 for a report on Officer John Rabalais’ malfunctioning Taser, which was used during an incident in which he tried to restrain a naked man on PCP.

Neither Reynolds nor Sgt. Robert Phillips, who investigated Rabalais’ actions in that incident, fully read the report because it was very technical.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Reynolds had said one of the reasons he demoted Rabalais — he was demoted from sergeant to officer — was because he pulled the trigger off his Taser 19 times.

The report, which was referenced during Rabalais’ arbitration hearing, showed that number to be incorrect and concluded there were four trigger pulls, not 19.

“Axon also says there is no way to even know if this Taser was functioning and no way to know if The Man was Tased by Rabalais,” Cagle said.

In the hearing, the victim was only referenced by the term, “The Man Tased by Rabalais” in order to shield the victim’s identity during the hearing.

Cagle paved the way to show his client, Rabalais, is a good cop. In the nearly 15 years Rabalais has been with Groves Police Department, Cagle said, he has not received official disciplinary action, although he has received employee counseling. That happened once in 2015 and a second time in 2017, when he reportedly pointed a Taser at a man’s head.

The counseling memorandum is not a disciplinary action, according to information provided in court, prompting Cagle to say Rabalais had never received disciplinary action.

The Man, as he is called in the hearing, was naked and high on PCP on Aug. 6, 2017. During the event, he assaulted someone at the Waffle House, 4505 Twin City Highway, then moved down to Jack in the Box, 4001 Twin City Highway and assaulted another person, before going across the street to Raceway, 3939 Twin City Highway and assaulting someone there. Although there were suggestions of three assaults, no victims were found.

Groves police were called to the scene to assist Port Arthur with the incident as Port Arthur police were extremely busy elsewhere and responding officers found the naked man in the road making “snow angels,” Cagle said during a recess.

Police asked The Man what he was doing and he said he was trying to fly. They asked him what he was on and he said PCP.

At one point The Man reportedly jumped up and ran at Rabalais so Rabalais, Gary Davis and Steve Lemons — the latter two are also Groves officers — used tasers on The Man. He tried to get up again and was tased again. He was eventually handcuffed during which he made some sort of movements or disregarded commands and was tased while handcuffed.

At some point, testimony revealed, The Man received a cut to the head. Later he spent about 30 minutes in the emergency rom before being transported to the Jefferson County Correctional Facility on a charge of public intoxication.

Reynolds, while being questioned by Bettye Lynn, the attorney who is representing the city of Groves, told how he was embarrassed at Rabalais’ lack of professionalism during the incident.

Reynolds spoke of the end of the tasing incident. He said Port Arthur officers arrived, one of them being Officer Scott Goss.

Goss was the one who removed the tasers from The Man, not any of the Groves officers, according to testimony by Reynolds. He said Goss said he would prefer Groves police handle the suspect since they were the ones who tased him. Davis said it was not in his city the incident actually occurred in Port Arthur — and that Groves officers would have to go to a Justice of the Peace court because the incident didn’t occur in their jurisdiction.

It was suggested that Goss called his sergeant saying the Groves officers were refusing to handle the subject.

“In law enforcement there’s a phrase, ‘you catch ‘em you clean ‘em’,” Reynolds said. “At that time Port Arthur was so busy they had to call us.”

Goss, he said, seemed to be concerned about the condition of the prisoner and the fact the Groves officers did not assist PAPD. Goss submitted paperwork to his superior officer, which eventually made it up the chain of command to former PAPD Chief Patrick Melvin.

Melvin in turn hand delivered the documents to Reynolds.

Lynn attempted to establish the importance of having Groves and Port Arthur police departments on good working conditions. But the tasing incident and the fact Port Arthur — not Groves — took The Man into custody, was a dig at Groves.

The hearing was set to continue Friday at Groves Municipal Court.

Reynolds also believes Rabalais should have taken the lead during the taser incident and called the other officers off. After viewing videos of the incident he referred to it as “Taser frenzy” between the three officers and The Man.

Previous reporting: Groves cop in arbitration