Ruben Solis found himself bruised and bleeding on the pavement after he called Ellis County Sheriff’s Office deputies to help him return home safely earlier this year.
On Thursday, Nov. 29, Solis filed a civil action lawsuit with the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas – Dallas Division against the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office for violating his rights under the Rehabilitation Act and the American Disabilities Act.
According to court documents obtained by the Daily Light, the ECSO failed to properly prepare its deputies for reasonable accommodation, interaction and transportation of people with disabilities in their custody, which caused injury and trauma to Solis.
Solis seeks compensatory damages under the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, equitable relief and attorneys’ fees, and costs and litigation expenses from the ECSO. He is represented by attorney Wayne Krause Yang and local counsel, Eliot Shavin of Dallas.
According to court documents, Solis suffers from Huntington’s disease, which is a degenerative disorder that affects physical and mental capabilities.
In March, Solis called the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office to request a safe ride back home after he visited his daughter for lunch. The court documents state he requested the ride because of the effects his illness has had on his mental and physical capabilities, leaving him unable to operate a vehicle. While he waited, Solis decided to go for a walk down the same street where his daughter lived, thinking he'd meet the deputies while out.
Court documents state ECSO deputies Dustin Saulter and Robert Nichols were dispatched to the home of Solis’ daughter. Upon arrival, the deputies received a description of his appearance and drove up behind Solis as he walked a few blocks away. When deputies asked for his identification, Solis’ hands began to spasm as he reached into his pocket and attempted to explain that he has Huntington’s disease.
“It was obvious to them that he did not have good control over his hands as he attempted to reach into his pocket,” the document reads. “Because the ECSO failed to train them in how to identify and accommodate people with disabilities like Mr. Solis, its deputies reacted in a hostile, rather than helpful, manner.”
The document explains that Saulter and Nichols repeatedly ignored Solis’ explanation of his disease, questioned him antagonistically and initiated unwelcomed physical contact. As the situation escalated, Solis’ symptoms began to worsen. His speech became uncontrollable and his limbs twitchy.
When he attempted to distance himself from the deputies, Nichols grabbed Solis, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him. The deputies then dragged Solis to his knees and left him next to their vehicle’s bumper unattended.
“Since the deputies had taken away his ability to use his hands, his unprotected face smashed into the ECSO vehicle’s reinforced bumper before he senselessly crashed to the ground awkwardly on his ribs,” the document reads. “Prone on the pavement, Mr. Solis’ face began to bleed and swell while bruises spread around his eye and along his cheek, chest and ribs.”
Despite his injuries, Solis was not transported to the hospital. He was first taken to the Wayne McCollum Detention Center instead, where the booking officer observed Solis’ injuries and directed him to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Waxahachie.
According to court documents, medical staff feared that Solis might have suffered a skull fracture, intracranial hemorrhage and fractured ribs. X-ray and CT scan results showed that Solis’ injuries included severe bruising and lacerations to the face, trauma to the tendons and joints in his neck and hands. The medical staff confirmed Solis had Huntington's disease and followed head trauma protocol.
After his injuries were treated, the deputies charged Solis with felony assault on a public servant. In the charging document, the deputy swore under oath that he smelled alcohol on Solis’ breath and that he had assaulted them. A blood alcohol test at the hospital showed that there was no alcohol in Solis’ system at the time of the arrest.
Solis was transported back to the county jail, where he spent the rest of the day before he was released on a posted $10,000 bond. The assault charge against Solis was dismissed a few days later.
Court documents state a public information request found the ECSO does not provide its employees with any policies, procedures or training on how to interact with people who have disabilities. Yang said Solis’ counsel requested videos and recordings related to the incident, but the office has failed to provide them.
“We tried repeatedly to speak with the sheriff and counsel for the Sheriff to try and address this issue,” Yang said. “We said we’d be happy to talk to you. Maybe there’s a side of this story from your perspective that we’re not getting here? They repeatedly refused to provide the videos or information.”
In the court filing, Solis requested that the case is tried before a jury. The Daily Light reached out to the ECSO for comment. Ellis County Sheriff's Sgt. Joe Fitzgerald stated via email that the ECSO has no comment on the matter at this time.