The Police NewsHouston
Lawsuit Claims Houston Officer Beat Up Man Suspected of Marijuana Possession
Houston Police Officer Kevin Hubenak didn't say anything about beating Larry Moore to a pulp in the charging complaint against him for possession of marijuana. He didn't accuse Moore of trying to run, of resisting arrest or of trying to assault him.
But according to a lawsuit now filed against the city, HPD and Hubenak, the officer beat Moore so badly that the HPD jail doctors wouldn't even accept him into the facility, instead sending him to the hospital. The lawsuit accuses Hubenak of unjustified excessive force and failure to render medical aid to Moore while he was clearly in pain and severely injured. (HPD declined to comment, citing pending litigation, and the city did not respond to our request.)
"They didn't even call him an ambulance. That's one of the more upsetting things," said Moore's attorney, Andre Evans, who often handles police brutality cases. "You have someone who is clearly in pain. You caused his pain. You didn't call for an ambulance — and instead you take him to the jail."
According to the criminal complaint, authored by Hubenak, Hubenak and his partner pulled Moore over because he allegedly ran a red light and had a broken taillight. Moore turned into a Fiesta Mart and came to a stop near the front entrance of the store. Hubenak claims that as soon as he came up to the car, he could smell "fresh marijuana." The cops asked Moore and his friend to step out of the vehicle, and they complied.
From here, the officer and Moore offer conflicting accounts.
According to the lawsuit, while Hubenak was questioning Moore, Moore's friend fled from Hubenak's partner on foot — and that's when Hubenak then "violently body slammed Moore" and started hitting him so hard in the head that he momentarily lost consciousness. The lawsuit says that Hubenak only stopped punching and kicking Moore after bystanders going in and out of the Fiesta Mart yelled at him to stop.
Hubenak, meanwhile, says nothing about this assault in the criminal complaint, and only says that Moore's friend fled from his partner and had to be chased down after Moore was already handcuffed.
The suit claims that, while the pair sat in the back of the cop car for two hours, police made jokes about Moore's disfigured face. When he finally arrived at the HPD jail, jail docs sent him to Ben Taub for what they described as "blunt facial trauma." Doctors there said he had a blood clot in his face, on the side of his head. One doctor had to remove the dirt in his hair left by Hubenak's boot, which Moore claims he left pressed on his head, into the concrete, so that he could not get up.
Evans said that, two years later, his client's face has still not returned to normal.
"This case," he said, "it really did shock me."
Moore later pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana, despite earlier maintaining that the weed did not belong to him. In the lawsuit, he is seeking unspecified damages for the pain, both physical and mental, that he says the police have caused him.
Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.