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SAPD will not investigate gay tourist’s claim of mistreatment
QSanAntonio.com, November 7, 2008

A gay tourist who was beaten by a cab driver while being called a "faggot" and then later wrongly arrested by police has been told that due to a technicality his case will not be reviewed by the SAPD’s Internal Affairs department.

Frank Baez, who was visiting San Antonio from Los Angeles during Fiesta, says he was mistreated by police who, after assuming he had been to a gay bar, failed to listen to his side of the story and arrested him. Later, when he was being put in a cell, he was asked by an SAPD jailer if he was a "faggot or a homo."

Baez was not only arrested but had to stand trial in August for petty theft and assault of the cab driver who in fact, had seriously beaten Baez. (See story below for complete details of the incident.)

In an email obtained by QSanAntonio, Michael White, Baez’ lawyer in San Antonio, explains why the SAPD will not investigate.

I filed the complaint with SAPD Internal Affairs Dept. well within the 180-day deadline. However, a few days latter an officer at Internal Affairs called me and explained that Internal Affairs was unable to take an disciplinary action against the officers complained of, because, under the terms of the police union's contract with the City of San Antonio, such action has to be taken within the 180 days.

However, there was not enough time left on the 180 days when I filed the complaint because Internal Affairs has to give notice to the officers concerning the complaint filed against them; then the officers have a number of days to respond; then a hearing has to be set and several days notice has to be given to all parties: plus Internal Affairs needs a certain amount of time to investigate the case.

When I was told that the complaint has to be filed within 180 day, I assumed that meant that so long as we filed within that time, then the deadline was satisfied. However, everything has to happen, including the imposing of the reprimand, suspension, or termination of the officer complained of, within the 180 days.

Angered by the SAPD’s response, Baez drafted a letter to Captain Jose Banales, the Police Department’s GLBT Liaison. In that letter, Baez writes:

"I was assaulted by a cab driver and falsely arrested by several of your officers. My attorney filed a formal complaint well within the 180 of the statute of limitations and now we've been told that we in fact cannot file a complaint. As a law abiding citizen I think it's preposterous and frankly unjust that your department refuses to reprimand or investigate those officers based on a technicality."

Baez tells QSanAntonio that he feels he’s been assaulted all over again, this time by the San Antonio Police Department.

Gay tourist assaulted by cab driver then arrested by SAPD
QSanAntonio.com, October 3, 2008

A gay tourist in town for Fiesta Week last April has told QSanAntonio a harrowing story of being assaulted by a cab driver who kept calling him a "faggot" as he beat him.

Frank Baez, a 40-year-old hospital administrator who lives in Los Angeles, had his leg seriously injured, was mocked by police on the scene, and in the end, arrested because officers incorrectly assumed he initiated the assault.

Baez says he hailed a cab around 11:30 p.m. on April 22, 2008 in front of Luther’s Cafe on North Main Street where he had a late snack with some acquaintances. He was headed to the King William District where he was staying with a friend.

Baez was in town for a two-week vacation and a family visit timed to coincide with Fiesta Week. He was born and raised in San Antonio, attended Thomas Jefferson High School and graduated from UTSA in 1996 with a degree in psychology. He moved to Los Angeles after college.

Okechukwu Onyeanusi, the 36-year-old AAA Taxi & Limo Service driver who picked up Baez on Main Street that night, is a native of Nigeria who's lived in the U.S. for the last 18 years.

"The meter's not working right"

Baez remembers that when he got into the cab the meter read $1. But after going only a few blocks he noticed the price on the meter was escalating rapidly after traveling only a short distance. He voiced this concern to Onyeanusi.

Baez rode in the cab through downtown when he decided that meter wasn't working and the ride was going get expensive. He asked Onyeanusi several times to pull over and let him out.

The cab was in the vicinity of South St. Mary’s Street and East Durango Boulevard when Onyeanusi turned into a dark parking lot and finally stopped the cab. Baez gave Onyeanusi $5, even though the meter read $6.75, insisting that he had asked repeatedly to be let out sooner.

As Baez got out of the cab, Onyeanusi got out as well and grabbed Baez by the shirt. He began punching Baez in the face and chest, pushing him to the ground where he kicked him. Throughout the beating, the cab driver kept calling Baez a "faggot." When Baez tried to use his cell phone to call police, Onyeanusi hit the phone out of his hand.

The police show up

Officer Curtis Coolidge, a policeman who was patrolling the area, came upon the scene just in time to witness Baez trying to defend himself by hitting back at Onyeanusi. Baez says Officer Coolidge called for backup and eventually there were at least 10 cops at the scene.

According to Baez, Onyeanusi was so out of control that he had to be calmed by police. Onyeanusi told police that Baez had assaulted him first, that he was trying to run away without paying.

When police asked Baez where he had been earlier, he responded that he had been out at Fiesta. The police said that they knew he was really at the Saint, a local gay bar, because that’s where Onyeanusi told them he was picked up. The Saint is across the street from Luther's Cafe.

Baez says the police used a mocking tone of voice when referring to the Saint. The truth is that Baez had not been to any bar that night.

The police believed Onyeanusi’s story and arrested Baez for assault and failure to pay the cab fare. Baez says police took him in without getting his side of the story.

At the police station, Baez showed his injured leg to the police, one of whom, Officer D. Lerma, took him in handcuffs to University Hospital downtown to have it looked at. Baez says that Officer Lerma was the only cop with the SAPD who showed any compassion for his plight.

After the hospital visit, Baez was taken back to police headquarters where, before being locked up, he was asked by an SAPD jailer if he was a "faggot or a homo." Fearing for his safety, Baez told the jailer he was straight. A friend later came to bail out Baez at a cost of $1800.

Bashed, then put on trial

Baez went back to Los Angeles after the incident but returned to San Antonio to stand trial on August 26, 2008. His case was heard at the Bexar County Court of Law #11 with Judge Jo-Ann S. De Hoyos presiding. The trail lasted two days.

At the trial, Onyeanusi tried to portray Baez as a drunkard and thief who was out of control.

The true facts of the incident did not conform to Onyeanusi's assertions. Baez does not drink for health reasons and, when questioned, police did not say Baez appeared or acted drunk. According to Baez, the $5 bill he had given to the driver was found in the cab's front seat, proving that he had attempted to pay.

Baez was found not guilty on both counts. "The jury took only 10 minutes to reach their verdict," he says. Baez’ attorney, Michael White, told QSanAntonio that his client may consider suing the cab driver for false prosecution and assault.

In looking back on his ordeal, Baez says he was treated badly by the SAPD. It wasn't only because they did not believe his side of the story but because of the mocking tone used by police in reference to the Saint, even though he had not been there that night.

There also was the humiliation of being asked if he was a "faggot or a homo" before being put in a jail cell.

Upon reading a draft of this article, Sergeant Gabe Trevino, a spokesperson for the San Antonio Police Department, told QSanAntonio that he urges Baez to file a formal complaint so that an SAPD investigation can be initiated. He cautioned that the SAPD’s Internal Affairs division will only launch an investigation if it is within six months of the date of the alleged misconduct.

Sergeant Trevino also said he wanted to reassure the GLBT community that Chief William McManus is committed to protecting the rights of all citizens and to provide an open forum for their complaints.

Indeed, in the time since Chief McManus was hired, he has initiated a variety of measures meant to shore-up relations with GLBT citizens. However, the Chief’s gay-friendly policies have failed to change the attitudes of some in the SAPD’s rank and file.

"As a result of my injuries, I was out on disability for three-and-a-half months with a ruptured Achilles tendon." says Baez. "I could not walk for two months and had extensive physical therapy. I left San Antonio last April fearing for my safety as a gay man. Los Angeles embraces diversity -- here I live without the fear of being killed for being gay."

Click here for QSanAntonio’s archive on the SAPD.