Fort Worth Dodges Suit Over Cop’s Sex Assaults

     FORT WORTH, TEXAS (CN) – Three women who were sexually assaulted by an on-duty police officer cannot show that the city was negligent, a federal judge ruled.
     Daniel Lopez, a former officer with the Fort Worth Police Department, was sentenced in March to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of sexual assault.
     Victims testified that Lopez had stopped them for purported traffic violations, drove them to a secluded area in his police car and then sexually assaulted them.
     Three such women sued Fort Worth for violations of their federal civil rights, as well as assault and emotional distress.
     U.S. District Judge John McBryde granted the city summary judgment, however, after finding that it has sovereign immunity from the claims.
     Lopez’s conduct simply could not have been foreseen “no matter how closely the police investigators scrutinized” his background, the Aug. 30 decision states.
     “None of City’s alleged oversights of information in Lopez’s background show the requisite ‘strong connection” between Lopez’s background and the sexual assaults of plaintiffs,” McBryde wrote.
     Though Lopez’s tenure in the Navy included an “unspecified altercation with a shipmate,” there is nothing to indicate that the incident involved sexual assault, according to the decision, which notes that Lopez also received an honorable military discharge.
     Lopez also received three months of probation at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for leaving a control area while an inmate was still in the area. But this incident fails as well to show the needed “strong connection” to Lopez’ later sexual assaults, McBryde found.
     “No matter how closely the police investigators scrutinized these incidents, nothing about them would have indicated that the ‘obvious consequence” of hiring Lopez would be a violation of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights,” he wrote.
     The judge also sided with the city on claims that it was deliberately indifferent in its supervision of Lopez.
     “The evidence shows that city commenced its investigation of Lopez, and relieved him of duty, the same day it received the complaint from [one of the plaintiffs],” McBryde said. “Such acts would appear to the court to be the opposite of deliberate indifference.”

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