HOUSTON — A Galveston police captain testified Monday that officers used appropriate force, including the use of a stun gun and pepper spray, at an island resort in 2008 to subdue wedding guests who were refusing to comply with police orders and resisting arrest.
To demonstrate the sound made by a stun gun, Capt. Byron Franklin discharged a Taser into a cardboard box in Houston’s federal court, where a lawsuit alleging brutality by Galveston police officers is being tried.
Franklin, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit and was a lieutenant at the time, said an officer used a stun gun on the father of the bride at a wedding at The San Luis Resort only after the man did not comply with police orders to leave the area.
The sound of the stun gun being deployed can be heard on a police dashboard camera recording of the incident outside The San Luis Resort’s H20 bar hours after a wedding at the resort and shortly after guests were asked to leave when the brother of the bride was arrested, accused by police of being intoxicated and belligerent.
The noise of the Taser being used on the video appears to take place about 40 seconds after Gilbert O’Balle, the father of the bride, was told by an officer to back away from where his son and at least one other wedding guest were being detained.
Pepper spray also was used, affecting both O’Balle and another wedding guest.
Franklin said he grabbed O’Balle by the legs as an expedient method to pull him away from where the pepper spray was used, but the bride’s father did not complain of injuries and had his head up while he was being moved.
Franklin said he used his leg to subdue a guest at the bar after one of the man’s handcuffs fell off. The man was flailing the loose handcuff in a way that could be perceived as dangerous, and Franklin and several other officers “dog-piled” the man, who continued resisting, Franklin said.
Officers acted appropriately and used reasonable force to ensure the safety of officers and others, Franklin said.
Franklin said stun guns and pepper spray do not leave lasting injuries, and officers are subjected to the devices as part of police training.
Former Houston Astros pitcher Brandon Backe, who is among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from the city, has contended that injuries he sustained from Galveston police officers helped end his pitching career in 2009, when he was released by the team.
Phil Garner, who managed the Astros from 2004 to 2007, testified Monday that Backe was a talented player who turned in several impressive performances in 2004 and during Houston’s World Series appearance in 2005.
Backe underwent surgery to his right elbow in 2006, and Garner said it typically takes a little more than two years for a pitcher to recover from the “Tommy John” surgery Backe required.
Backe went 9-14 in a career-high 31 starts and had a 6.05 ERA in the 2008 season before Oct. 5, when he was arrested in Galveston.
In 2009, Backe made only eight appearances before being released by the Astros.