Decision for appeal against Robert Arnold to be rendered Wednesday
City officials and representatives for Robert Arnold are expecting to hear the results of the hearing on Wednesday by letter from the visiting Judge Elizabeth Ray.
During a hearing Monday morning, in the 260th District courtroom, the judge heard arguments from both sides on why or why not the city should be granted an appeal. If they were to win the appeal, both sides would have to ”start from square one” and undergo an arbitration hearing once more. However, if the city should lose, the decision would stand and Arnold would retain his job at the Orange Police Department. There is a possibility, the City could appeal the decision to a higher court.
Arnold was discharged from his job at OPD following an incident in July 2010 when he shot and killed 28-year-old James Whitehead of West Orange.
Whitehead had gone to the O’Reilly Auto Parts store on 16th Street to return a part for a pickup truck he was attempting to repair. However, the clerk refused to allow the return on the part. As a result, Whitehead became angry and began cursing. An employee of the store call 9-1-1 for assistance in the matter.
Arnold who was off duty and also a customer at the store reportedly told Whitehead to calm down which caused him to direct his anger at the officer by calling him racial slurs. Arnold walked out the door with Whitehead behind him.
Whitehead was getting into the passenger side of his neighbor’s pickup truck,which he had arrived in, and the confrontation between Arnold and Whitehead continued. The situation escalated to the point where Whitehead was fatally shot by Arnold.
An investigation into the matter was conducted by the Texas Rangers. The case was turned over to the Orange County Grand Jury. They decided to “no-bill” Arnold of any charges.
Monday, City Attorney Jack Smith, stated the hearing examiner made a decision from the arbitration hearing and misinterpreted and over stepped the bounds of his job which was to rule on the case based on the evidence. Instead, after a four day hearing, the examiner ruled Arnold was to be reinstated based on the fact the city of Orange violated his rights by not giving him due process.
Smith also cited many cases where a decision was made such as the case of the which involved the Galvestion police department. Like Orange, the Galveston P.D. has a collective bargaining agreement with their officers. It contains provisions which relate to the investigation and the disciplinary actions resulting from a complaint against any officer. As a result, the city was not required to comply with sections of the Texas Government Code.
The hearing examiner in the Orange case ordered Arnold be reinstated based on the examiner’s findings of the city not complying with the same code. Smith argued they were also not required to follow the code.
Greg Cagle, Arnold’s attorney, said he was aware of the case since he was the attorney for the cases mentioned. Cagle asked if the city had complied with their own rules and replied answering his own question ,” no they did not.”
He added, the city failed to follow federal, state and their own policies.
He also told the judge the shooting review board did not conduct a fair investigation by only talking to one witness from the scene. In addition, he said a hearing before a hearing examiner is no different than a bench trial before a judge.
When both attorneys were done. The judge announced she would have a decision on the appeal on Wednesday.
“I think the law is on our side,” Cagle said.
Smith said he disagrees with Cagle and feels the city will win the appeal which will call for a new hearing.
Smith added, “ That’s what makes horse races and lawsuits.”
This is not Arnold’s first issue which ended in violence.
According to documents, Arnold is reported to have stabbed a classmate while in junior high school. Although there were no charges filed for fear of retaliation, the then 14-year-old boy was stabbed in the upper right back during an altercation with Arnold. The wound which was seen by doctors is said to have been about seven inches long and narrowly missed the victim’s lung.
In addition, an affidavit filed in Orange County by his wife, Shatonya Arnold, following two altercations with her husband, Robert Arnold further shows his tendency for violence.
According to documents, dated May 2004, Arnold has a “history of physical and verbal abuse” which “started in the year 2000 and has continued through the present.” It also reads, her husband became angry with her and backed her up into an armoire at their home. “He first hit the armoire with his fist and I ran from him and he chased me. He then tossed a leather chair. He grabbed me and was choking me. I got away from him and he chased me.” When she tried to call for help, Arnold grabbed the phone from her and threw it and then closed the door on her leg. When she tried to escape in her car, Arnold blocked the driveway. While she was on the phone inside her car, Arnold picked up a fire extinguisher and threatened to break her car window. She managed to escape by driving through the yard of their residence. Arnold then followed her in town for a while before quitting.
The couple was attempting to reconcile when Arnold appeared at her place of employment in Groves. According to documents, Arnold demanded she immediately call her attorney. She refused and he grabbed her arm and pushed her into her office and closed the door. He tried to remove her wedding ring and she pushed him away. As a result, he struck her “with his fist on the left side” of her face. She was knocked to the floor and he began pulling her by her arm to drag her to her feet. After yelling at her he left the building.
Later the same day, a fellow employee informed her Arnold had returned. Her fellow employees put her into a supply closet to keep her safe. Local police were called and he was taken to jail.
The document reads,” I am afraid that my husband will continue to assault me, harass me, and verbally abuse me as he has done for many years. I do not believe that my children are safe in his presence when he engages in these outbursts of anger and uncontrolled temper.”
Attorneys Robert Arnold have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the city of Orange.
According to court documents, the suit is for lost income, past, present and future in addition to lost benefits and loss of ability to contribute to his retirement. In addition, they are seeking damages for mental anguish and emotional distress.
Arnold’s attorneys also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging the racial discrimination. However, according to Smith, in March the EEOC determined there was “no discrimination.”
The mediation on the lawsuit is scheduled for Nov. 15.
For more information on the decision, be sure to check out the website www.therecordlive.com.