HOUSTON (CN) – A 65-year-old Ph.D. claims Houston cops falsely arrested her, searched her home without a warrant and maliciously prosecuted her after she quarreled with a “wanted criminal” who let his dog take a dump on her “well manicured lawn.”
Hatice Cullingford, a former NASA engineer who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering, sued Houston its police Officers T.E. Sales and F. Rodriguez in Federal Court.
Cullingford claims that on August 29, 2009 “a wanted criminal from Dallas, Texas, Robert Shlemon, 26, was walking his dog with another person by Dr. Cullingford’s residence.”
Cullingford claims that Shlemon had previous convictions for a drug-related crime and for having a weapon in a prohibited place, and was wanted on several warrants out of Dallas County.
Shlemon is not named as a defendant.
The complaint states that on the night in question, “In full view of Dr. Cullingford, wanted criminal Shlemon and the other individual then proceeded to allow their dog to defecate on Dr. Cullingford’s well-manicured lawn – in the flower bed – thereby violating Houston City Ordinance. Dr. Cullingford told wanted criminal Shlemon and the other person not to do this. Wanted criminal Shlemon and the other individual then proceeded to berate Dr. Cullingford and the dog lunged forward at Dr. Cullingford.
“Wanted criminal Shlemon then stated he was going to get his gun and they left.”
Later that night, Cullingford says, three Houston cops came to her home and arrested her.
“The 3 HPD officers then entered and re-entered Dr. Cullingford’s residence and searched Dr. Cullingford’s residence for over an hour – all without permission. The officers took Dr. Cullingford’s purse from her residence and at least [Officer] H.J. Morales and possibly the other two officers searched through Dr. Cullingford’s purse and took out and searched various items without permission. Dr. Cullingford found the experience very embarrassing and frightening. Dr. Cullingford was threatened with a Taser.”
Cullingford claims Officer Morales injured her shoulder by jerking it forcefully.
After the warrantless search, she says, the officers then took her, and her purse, to jail.
“Dr. Cullingford did not request nor did she want her purse taken from her home to the Mykawa jail as it had her credit cards, money, and many other personal items which would then be handled by many strangers,” she says.
Cullingford says if the officers had properly investigated her argument they would have arrested Shlemon for assault, and for his Dallas County warrants.
She claims the cops did not even give Shlemon or his companion, a ticket “for failing to curb their dog in violation of Houston City Ordinance.”
At the Houston city jail, Cullingford says, jailers bruised her by grabbing and shoving her, then threatened to Taser her unless she stopped complaining about how jail personnel were rifling through her purse.
She was jailed for 15 hours until she bonded out.
“Based on the paperwork and information provided by The 3 HPD Officers Dr. Cullingford was charged with assault by threat, a class C misdemeanor. Dr. Cullingford did not commit any crime nor was there any probable cause to arrest or charge Dr. Cullingford with any crime. On March 5, 2010, the case against Dr. Cullingford was dismissed,” the complaint states.
In addition to her work for NASA, Cullingford formerly worked as a staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a nuclear reactor engineer for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and as a mechanical engineer working on nuclear fusion for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Her 12-page complaint relates three incidents in which Houston police officers or jailers allegedly used excessive force against suspects, and shot and killed an unarmed man.
“Upon information and belief there are many other beatings by Houston police, some caught on video and some reviewed by the Internal Affairs Department, that legally constitute excessive force, but no discipline is handed out,” Cullingford claims.
She seeks punitive damages false arrest, malicious prosecution, conspiracy and violations of her civil and constitutional rights.
She is represented by Randall Kallinen.