Texas Civil Rights Project representing several people in federal lawsuit
BERTRAM, Texas (KXAN) – The Texas Civil Rights Project is representing several people in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday against Bertram Police Chief David Caudle, and the City of Bertram. The citizens claim Caudle acted lawlessly and abusively toward Bertram residents over the course of 2008.
“You see this pattern of really bizarre behavior by somebody who ought not be in law enforcement period,” said TCRP Director Jim Harrington at a press conference Thursday.
The suit claims Caudle caused a wreck in a patrol car after running a red light in January. A pregnant woman was involved, and Caudle allegedly tried to deter other officers and EMS from responding. The second incident in question happened in February. The suit claims the chief pointed his gun at an officer pictured on a computer screen. That officer was later fired.
“I can only hope for that man’s badge to be taken away,” said James Kincheloe while petting his pit bull puppy, Bud. In August, Caudle shot and killed Bud’s father Buddy outside the Kincheloe?s house.
“I don’t see that I could have done anything different,” said Caudle. The chief said Buddy was not on a leash, and when he approached the Kincheloe’s house to find the owner, it appeared Buddy was going to attack. “I had to make a choice of either getting bit or protecting myself,” said Caudle.
At a press conference Thursday, Bertram Mayor Pro-Tem L.O. Pogue said he was verbally threatened by Caudle after informing him he did not support him. Pogue is one seven plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit also filed against Mayor JoAnn Stephens. It claims she consistently silenced citizens at council meetings.
The suit also sheds light on Caudle?s work history. While a Travis County jailer, the suit claims Caudle was written up nine times for using excessive force toward inmates and other jailers. He was fired in 2002 after inappropriately grabbing an inmate.
City of Bertram mayor, police chief sued for abuse of power
By JIM BERGAMO
A Central Texas city, its mayor, and its police chief are all being sued for abuse of power.
The lawsuit contains claims that the Bertram police chief needlessly shot and killed a dog, kicked in a door without a warrant and pointed a gun at the homeowner.
Also, the suit contends Bertram’s mayor would not allow a petition for the chief’s firing to be presented at city council. At a news conference Thursday, the woman who organized that petition said the chief threatened to “take her out.”
“I grew up in Bertram and this is by far the worst I’ve ever seen it be, ever, the people are scared, they are afraid,” said Melinda Copeland, Bertram resident.
Copeland is one of seven Bertram residents who’ve filed suit against the city’s mayor and police chief. The suit claims Chief David Caudle has threatened residents, acted lawlessly and abused his power in the community.
“He’s a loaded gun, he’s a time bomb,” Copeland said.
Another resident filing suit just happens to be the Mayor Pro Tem of Bertram — I.O. Pouge. Frustrated that residents’ concerns were not being heard, Pogue says he told Caudle he could no longer support him as chief, and that’s when he says Caudle verbally threatened him with jail time.
“That he could put me in prison for 40 years, that’s when the problem started and I stood up and said, ‘Do it, damn it,’” Pogue said.
The lawsuit states Caudle’s abusive behavior dates back to his days as a deputy at the Travis County jail when he was disciplined nine times for excessive force or offensive behavior.
In his termination letter, then Travis County Sheriff Margo Frasier wrote, “There is no place…for a person who not only uses excessive force but also seems to delight in it.”
“If you put it all together and the totality of it, then you see this pattern of really bizarre behavior, and certainly someone who shouldn’t be in law enforcement period let alone be the police chief,” said Jim Harrington, Texas Civil Rights Project attorney.
“I think this is a big distraction for what were trying to do here, but were going to answer it and respond to it in kind,” said Caudle.
The suit claims Bertram Mayor Jo Ann Stephens consistently denied the residents their right to speak out at city council about their concerns. When asked about the suit, Stephens told KVUE News she could not comment.
An emotional Pouge says it’s time Mayor Stephens and Chief Caudle were held accountable.
“I took an oath and swore to serve and protect and that’s what Im trying to do,” Pogue said holding back tears.
The lawsuit claims the residents’ 1st, 4th and 14th Amendment rights were violated.
Earlier, Mayor Stephen’s own investigation into Chief Caduceus’s actions uncovered no wrong doing.
Bertram police chief accused of abuse, threats
In lawsuit, City Council member, others say townspeople have been subject to violent, retaliatory behavior
By Claire Osborn
BERTRAM — Several Bertram residents and a City Council member have sued the police chief, accusing him of exhibiting violent and abusive behavior.
In the federal lawsuit, residents say Bertram Police Chief David Caudle unnecessarily shot and killed a resident’s dog, threatened to put a man in the trunk of his patrol car after the man called 911, and pointed a handgun near the head of another officer at the police station.
In the lawsuit, residents say Caudle also threatened to put Council Member L.O. Pogue in prison for 40 years after Pogue said he would not support a pay raise for the chief.
Caudle did not return a Thursday afternoon call for comment.
The lawsuit was also filed against Mayor JoAnn Stephens and the City of Bertram. Stephens refused to accept a petition signed by 58 citizens asking for Caudle to be fired, the lawsuit said. Stephens declined to comment Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Austin.
“He’s a loaded gun,” said Melinda Copeland, a resident of Bertram and one of the people who filed the lawsuit. Speaking at a news conference, Copeland said she tried to present the petition to the mayor asking for Caudle’s firing.
Caudle threatened her about the petition, she said.
“He said he would take me out and get away with it,” Copeland said.
William Bell, another one of the plaintiffs, said at the news conference that he called 911 because he didn’t want to let a woman whose son was visiting his son to leave with her child because Bell said she was intoxicated. When Caudle arrived at Bell’s house, he threatened to allow Child Protective Services to take away Bell’s own son, Bell said. In a recorded call with 911, Caudle called Bell a “nasty, disgusting individual,” according to the lawsuit.
Caudle was a jailer for the Travis County sheriff’s department but was fired in 2002 after another jailer said he grabbed an inmate by the testicles and began to violently twist and squeeze, according to the lawsuit. Caudle used excessive force nine times as a jailer for the Travis County sheriff’s department from 1988 through 2002, the lawsuit said.
Bertram is a town of about 1,300 residents northwest of Austin in Burnet County.
One of the residents, Williamson County Deputy Constable Raymond Baladez, said in an interview Thursday night that he gets four to five telephone calls a week from people complaining about Caudle threatening them.
“Most of it is just unprofessionalism,” Baladez said. He said he talked to the City Council about his concerns about Caudle but that the mayor wouldn’t listen to him.
“She will not hear of it,” Baladez said. “She supports him 110 percent.”