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A former Houston cop who is facing a federal civil rights lawsuit has now been indicted on assault charges in relation to an alleged 2019 assault of a fleeing, handcuffed Black man.
Lucas Vieira, 31, faces a first-degree felony charge after he allegedly assaulted 34-year-old Aundre Howard, who he claims he pulled in July 2019 for an apparent traffic violation. If found guilty, Vieira faces up to 99 years in prison.
"What this does is, it sends a message to the Houston Police Department that excessive force will not be tolerated. The DA will prosecute police misconduct and the days of using excessive force, hopefully, are over, " Attorney Randall Kallinen, who is representing Howard, told Oxygen.com on Wednesday.
On Sunday, the Houston Police Department tweeted a statement indicating that Vieria had been placed on indefinite suspension on April 16 by the department’s new chief, Troy Finner. A spokesman for the department said that he is “no longer an HPD employee” but is appealing the decision, NBC News reported.
In April, Howard, 34, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force regarding the incident that began with him being pulled over for driving with an expired registration in Houston. The suit says Vieria violated Howard’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights, assault and battery, failure to intervene, and mental anguish.
Howard complied with Vieria’s request to exit the vehicle. He was handcuffed and placed in the squad car after the officers said they found marijuana in his vehicle.
No weapons were found in his vehicle, according to the suit.
The suit further alleges that Howard was so terrified by the officers, he defecated in his pants. Vieria, Serrano, and a third officer who is not named in the suit allegedly pulled down Howard's pants then mocked him.
As one of the officers was set to perform a cavity search, Howard fled while still handcuffed. Officers chasing after him across a freeway service road were nearly hit by a vehicle, according to Vieria’s lawyer, James Siscoe, NBC News reported. Video of the chase posted online by Kallinen shows the moment that Howard was beaten.
“Shoot his a--,” Vieria is heard yelling to Thomas Serrano in the short clip before he assaults Howard, using another set of handcuffs like brass knuckles and striking him in the back of the head.
Howard was then charged with evading arrest and possession of more than 4 grams of cocaine; the drug possession charges were later dismissed, according to Houston Public Media.
Vieria was released from jail on a $10,000 bond, according to online court records.
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