McALLEN, Texas (CN) – A veteran who asked if he would be rewarded for returning a man’s lost paycheck claims in court that police tricked and falsely arrested him when he did so.
Jesus Stillman sued the City of Weslaco, its Police Chief Michael Kelly and Officer Albert Ponce in Federal Court.
Stillman claims he found a Stripes convenience store paycheck in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Weslaco in December 2011.
“The payroll check was payable to [nonparty] Luis Silva,” the complaint states. “A Social Security number was on the check stub. At least one vehicle had driven over the check as tire tracks were visible on the payroll check.
“After shopping at Wal-Mart, Mr. Stillman took efforts to find Luis Silva. Mr.
Stillman located Ms. Guadalupe Silva, who claimed to be Luis Silva’s sister-in-law. Ms. Guadalupe Silva asked for Mr. Stillman’s phone number and provided to Luis Silva, who called Mr. Stillman.
“When speaking to Luis Silva on the phone, Mr. Stillman did not demand any money. He did ask Luis Silva if there was the possibility of a reward.
“In response to plaintiff’s request for a reward, Luis Silva used profanity and threatened Mr. Stillman with arrest since his friend was a police officer. Luis Silva told plaintiff, ‘Since I already have your phone number, I’ll let you deal with my friend who is a police officer.’ Minutes later, Luis Silva called Mr. Stillman and promised him a $100.00 reward if Mr. Stillman delivered the payroll check.”
Stillman claims Silva asked to meet him at the Stripes gas station where he was working.
“On the sidewalk outside the Stripes store, Mr. Stillman located Luis Silva. Luis Silva then tells Mr. Stillman to wait for him inside the store. Two or three minutes later, Luis Silva enters the store and pretends to use the ATM,” the complaint states. “At that time, defendant Weslaco police officer Albert Ponce, walked in.
“Luis Silva then motioned to defendant Officer Ponce to approach Mr. Stillman. Suddenly and without explanation, two (2) uniformed police officers and two (2) other (presumably) Weslaco police officers in civilian clothes surrounded Mr. Stillman.
“They demanded the payroll check. Without delay or resistance, Mr. Stillman provided the payroll check to one of the law enforcement officers in civilian attire. He in turn immediately returned the payroll check to Luis Silva.
“Defendant Officer Ponce then escorted Mr. Stillman outside the store to arrest him. At no point did defendant Officer Ponce ever read Mr. Stillman his ‘Miranda’ rights. Mr. Stillman was handcuffed, placed in the back of the patrol unit and transported to the Weslaco lock-up.
“There was no warrant for Mr. Stillman on the day in question. The arrest of plaintiff by defendant Officer Ponce was without reasonable grounds. defendant Officer Ponce knew Plaintiff had not committed an offense, and defendant Officer Ponce knew he was without probable cause to arrest plaintiff.” (Parentheses in original.)
Stillman says he spent two days in jail before he could post bail, and had to sell his truck to hire a defense attorney.
“Prior to this incident, Mr. Stillman had never been arrested. All charges against Mr. Stillman were dropped in late May 2012,” the complaint states.
Stillman seeks punitive damages for “past and future mental anguish,” and “unjustified incarceration.”
He is represented by Mauro Ruiz, of McAllen.