Texas Police Officer Ordered to Pay $6.3 Million to Family of Iowa Man Who Died in Custody

The family of an Iowan who died nearly four years ago while being forcibly arrested by an off-duty Texas police officer has been awarded $6.3 million by a federal judge.

William Livezey Jr., 70, died from a heart attack he suffered while in handcuffs on the side of a highway in Malakoff, Texas, on Dec. 11, 2013.

Early this month, a federal judge ordered former police officer Ernesto Fierro, who was forced to surrender his Texas peace officer’s license because of the incident, to pay a judgment to Livezey’s wife and four adult children.

The Iowans filed a lawsuit against Fierro, his police chief and the city of Malakoff, Texas, in April 2014 claiming excessive force and unlawful arrest. The city and Chief Billy Mitchell were later dropped from the lawsuit.

Fierro will be solely responsible for paying the judgment.

Ernesto Fierro

According to the lawsuit, Livezey was delivering reclaimed barn lumber from his business in Taintor, Iowa, to a client in Houston when he was pulled over by Fierro, who was off duty at the time.

Fierro claimed in testimony that Livezey, who lived in New Sharon, Iowa, had “homicidal intent with his attacks of road rage” and came close to killing him while he was on his motorcycle.

But witnesses said they saw the motorcycle weave from side-to-side and dart in front of Livezey’s truck at least 15 times, forcing it onto the shoulder. At one point, Fierro allegedly kicked the truck’s tire, witnesses told police.

Fierro placed Livezey in handcuffs and said he was under arrest for aggravated assault. That’s when the 70-year-old told Fierro he wasn’t feeling well.

When backup officers arrived, Livezey said his chest was hurting “and he thought the other man was going to hurt him,” the lawsuit says. Fierro claimed Livezey was “faking” and just “putting on a show” to avoid going to jail.

Those officers took Livezey out of his handcuffs and placed him in his car, where he turned purple and stopped breathing.

He was declared dead by cardiac arrest a short time later at a Texas hospital.

The lawsuit claimed Livezey’s constitutional rights were violated because he was placed under arrest and detained without probable cause. Attorneys claimed he was “wrongfully and illegally handcuffed, arrested, assaulted, and detained which ultimately caused his death at the scene.”

Fierro was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, three counts of reckless driving and official oppression. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation and community service. He was forced to surrender his Texas peace officer’s license.

According to the lawsuit, Fierro was involved in several high-profile cases before his employment in Malakoff. He resigned from the Dallas Police Department in 2005 after he was involved in two hit-and-run crashes in which he fled the scene. He was also the subject of several complaints of excessive force in his nine years there, the lawsuit says.

Fierro was then employed by the Ferris, Texas, Police Department where he was involved in a high-speed chase that ended in the death of a motorcyclist in 2011.

Source: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/local/2017/09/25/texas-police-officer-must-pay-millions-family-iowa-man-who-died-custody/693144001/