It’s frustratingly rare that law enforcement officers are held accountable for wrongdoing, especially when people of color are the victims of violence at the hands of white cops. Perhaps that’s what makes this story so surprising: less than 24 hours after George Gomez was beaten to a pulp near his New Orleans home, the cops responsible found themselves in handcuffs—and out of a job.
Gomez, 36, tells The Advocate’s Ramon Antonio Vargas that he encountered John Galman, 26, and Spencer Sutton, 24, at the Mid-City Yacht Club early Tuesday morning. Turns out the off-duty cops didn’t care for Gomez’s sartorial choices.
Gomez said [...] one said he didn't like the military camouflage shirt and pants being worn by Gomez, who is Hispanic.
"He asked me if I was American. I told him yes, and he got mad because he said I was fake," said Gomez, who described himself as a U.S. native who was raised in Honduras before returning to live in New Orleans.
Gomez, who speaks Spanish as well as English with an accent, also described being asked if he served in the military.
Gomez said he did serve, including with the Louisiana National Guard, but the man who took issue with his clothing wasn't satisfied with any of his answers.
Gomez claims he then walked to his home nearby, and got in his truck, only to encounter Galman and Sutton, who blocked his vehicle and confronted him. Gomez says that neither man identified themselves as police officers.
Both cops, of course maintain that Gomez was the aggressor.
Law enforcement sources familiar with the rookie officers’ version of the incident offered a different narrative, saying the fight began when one of the officers noticed a man wearing military garb and asked the man whether he had a service record.
The sources said the officers eventually left the bar believing the matter was settled, only to find the man in military garb trailing them in his car.
He got out of his car, the sources said, and threatened the officers, who said they fought back in self-defense.
One of the sources said the man was brandishing "a heavy walking stick" as a weapon. Gomez later said he uses a walking cane to help him cope with back problems.
Unfortunately for the newly-unemployed xenophobes, Police Superintendent Michael Harrison says that video footage and multiple eyewitness accounts paint a very different picture.
“The whole neighborhood, I believe, heard it, you know? I mean, you had to, because he was screaming. I mean, they just beat him in the head,” an elderly neighbor told WWL’s Jay Cunningham Tuesday afternoon.
The termination process was initiated by NOPD on Tuesday. Galman and Sutton, who just graduated from the police academy in December, can be fired without much red tape, due to the fact that they were still on probation.
Galman and Sutton were booked Tuesday evening on simple assault charges, but police may add more charges. Both were released on their own recognizance.
Gomez is relieved that arrests were made, but saddened to know that his brutal beating came at the hands of two men sworn to protect and serve.
Most of all, Gomez just wants an apology.