City of Orange wins appeal in Arnold case

Robert Arnold

The city of Orange has won a judgement from Judge Elizabeth Ray granting them a new arbitration hearing in the case of former police officer, Robert Arnold who was fired from his job following an incident in July 2010 when he shot and killed 28-year-old James Whitehead of West Orange.

“I am very gratified.” said John Smith, city attorney. He added, this was he ruling they expected.

The motion reads, “Based on this review, the Court finds that the City of Orange’s Motion for Summary Judgement is hereby granted and Mr. Arnold’s Motion for Summary Judgement is hereby denied.”

It also reads, “The court denies the motion by the city of Orange to order the American Arbritration Association to appoint a new Hearing Examiner as there does not appear to be legal precedence for the court to make this ruling.”

Smith said the city does not want to have the same hearing examiner again to reside in the case.

“If the arbitrator (Leroy Bartman) won’t resign, then I am going to recommend to the city council to file an appeal,” Smith said.

Following a hearing on Oct. 29,the judge stated she would have a decision on the case by Wednesday Oct. 31. However, the judge did not officially rule on the case by issuing a letter on Wednesday  as she had stated, it is believed she was been tied up on the campaign trail in Houston since she is seeking re-election for judge.

Whitehead was shot after he 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 and a short time later  Whitehead also left the store.

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.

During the recent hearing, Smith stated the hearing examiner following the arbitration hearing 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 Galveston 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.

Arnold’s attorney, Greg Cagle, 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 an examiner is no different than a bench trial before a judge.

Attempts to reach Greg Cagle for comment on the ruling were unsuccessful.