Ellis County Sheriff’s Officers threw Ruben Solis to the ground and arrested him in 2018 after interpreting his behavior as drunk and disorderly. Solis is an elderly Waxahachie man with Huntington’s Disease — a brain disorder which affects his movement, intellectual abilities, and emotions.
Solis sued the department — alleging police brutality and discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But he recently dropped his lawsuit and reached an agreement with the county which is intended to improve safety for people with disabilities.
Wayne Krause Yang, a long-time civil rights attorney and the managing attorney at Texas Legal Services Center, told the Texas Standard there are many examples of this type of police encounter in Texas.
“Police are often trained to shoot first and ask questions later,” Krause Yang said. “These police officers not only came in with that mentality but they also had no training, no idea whatsoever what Mr. Solis’s disability was, or even how to interact properly with somebody who has a disability.”
Last week, Ellis County agreed to make sweeping changes within the sheriff’s department. The county will adopt a new detailed policy on interaction with people with disabilities, require de-escalation training for all deputies, and hire 25 mental health officers.
“This is going to make all of Ellis County much safer, especially for people with disabilities, but also for the very deputies who will be out there on the streets,” Krause Yang said.
All of this, Solis pushed for, in lieu of a personal financial settlement.
“The reason he wanted to stand up for his rights is to make a difference, to make sure this didn’t happen to somebody else in the future, and that’s what he was able to do,” Krause Yang said.
Krause Yang said Solis is relieved to be done with the legal proceedings, and proud of his accomplishments.
*Note: The audio for this story misidentifies when Solis was arrested. He was arrested in 2018, the lawsuit was filed in 2019.
Web story by Sarah Gabrielli.
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