Files reveal facts behind 1995 incident involving Carbondale cop
Carbondale police officer Jose Munoz grabbed a man by his long hair and throat after becoming offended by a “racial remark” in a bar in 1995, recently released results of an 11-year-old investigation show.
The Carbondale Police Department’s internal investigation into Munoz’s behavior that night was turned over to the Valley Journal on Tuesday, following a judge’s ruling last week.
Munoz and another officer walked into the Full Moon Saloon near midnight, the investigation says. Munoz said he was speaking with a patron in Spanish when a man at the bar told them, “Oh, c’mon. Speak f—ing English,” according to the investigation by Fred Williams. Williams was the police chief at the time; he is now a police officer in Carbondale.
Munoz grabbed the man by his hair with one hand and his throat with the other.
“[I] turned his face toward me and told him that I spoke Spanish because I could, and he was not going to tell me to speak English, that I took that as a racial remark and therefore as a great offense,” Munoz’s memo to Williams says.
The man apologized, and the other officer told Munoz to “chill out and let the man go.” Munoz , who was suspended for a day, said he moved away a few feet and tried to regain his composure. He later apologized to the victim, who told Munoz he was joking.
“I explained to him that his remark made me terribly upset while I was apologizing for my behavior,” Munoz’s report says.
According to documents relating to the incident, the victim told the town’s police chief the officer said he was having a bad day after the incident.
Later that night, emergency dispatchers received “two anonymous calls from a man attempting to make a report of this,” the documents say.
The incident arose during the trial this summer of a Carbondale resident who was hit by Munoz’s stun gun six times during a traffic stop. The resident’s lawyer attempted to get the 1995 records to show jurors Munoz’s work history. The Valley Journal later made similar attempts to get the investigation record.
Steve Zansberg, a lawyer who represents media in freedom of information cases, said last week it is vital that citizens know what their government is doing.
“People have a compelling interest to know that serious charges of police misconduct are investigated and how they’re investigated,” Zansberg said at the time. “It’s not just the officer’s conduct on the night in question, but [also] how the police department polices itself.”
Williams interviewed several people who were in the bar that night. Their stories were similar to those of Munoz and the victim.
“Munoz told [the victim] that he was having a bad day and that he was sorry about the way he acted,” the victim’s report says. The man did not press charges.
Bad day or not, police officers “are held to a higher standard of conduct then the citizens we serve,” Williams wrote in disciplining Munoz. “You lost your composure and physically grabbed and restrained a citizen. This was not an arrest control technique or a self-defense issue, but a reaction of anger and frustration.”
Williams closed by emphasizing the Carbondale Police Department’s policy on the use of force.
“Police officers SHALL USE ONLY THAT FORCE that appears to be reasonably necessary to effect the ARREST of a combative person, to DEFEND the officer’s person, or the PROTECTION of life and property of others,” the memo says.
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