A federal lawsuit was filed Monday against a former Lake Worth police officer, accusing him of using excessive force by “running over” an unarmed man with a sport utility vehicle during a foot pursuit in November 2020.
Dustin Bates of Denton County suffered three fractured ribs, a broken right leg and a fractured spine in the incident, video of which was captured on the officer’s dash camera, according to the suit.
Bates was later charged with evading arrest and drug possession, according to Tarrant County criminal court records. The charges against Bates were dismissed in August at prosecutorial discretion.
The lawsuit identified the Lake Worth officer as Jonathan Granado, who resigned from the department in December 2021, according to Lake Worth Police Chief J.T. Manoushagian.
Granado could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District in Texas in Fort Worth.
Manoushagian gave a statement and answered questions about the suit at a news conference Monday afternoon. The chief said that Granado braked as he exited a highway and followed Bates into a field, but his patrol vehicle slid on wet grass and struck Bates at about 45 mph.
Manoushagian said despite claims in the lawsuit, a police investigation found the SUV hit Bates but did not run over him.
The Lake Worth Police Department asked Grand Prairie police to conduct an independent criminal investigation of the incident, while the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office conducted a crash investigation and Lake Worth did an internal administrative investigation.
The Grand Prairie department’s investigation found marks that showed the tires of the officer’s vehicle lost traction, Manoushagian said. A Tarrant County grand jury reviewed the findings of the investigation in March and declined to indict the officer. The Department of Justice and FBI also reviewed the case and declined to take action, Manoushagian said.
Lake Worth suspended Granado for two weeks for violating policies related to the safe operation of a vehicle, he said. The officer underwent additional training and was placed on administrative duty until the investigations were completed last year.
Pursuit leads to crash
Bates was riding a motorcycle on Nov. 23, 2020, in Lake Worth when Granado pulled in behind him and radioed that he could not see Bates’ license plate, according to court documents.
Seconds later, Granado gave the license plate number to dispatch, and authorities determined it did not match the motorcycle Bates was driving, according to the lawsuit.
Granado turned on his overhead lights, signaling he was pulling over Bates for a traffic stop because of the license plate issue.
Bates did not pull over, and he accelerated and drove away from the Lake Worth officer.
After a brief pursuit, Bates exited the highway, but he lost control of the motorcycle, which went down in a grassy area.
Bates stood up and began to run into a field as he saw the Lake Worth officer approaching at a high rate of speed.
According to the lawsuit, Bates said he was moving to get out of the way of Granado’s vehicle.
“I was just trying to get out of the way of the patrol car,” Bates said in an August interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “And now I’m in pain every day.”
Granado’s dash camera video showed that Bates ran across a road into a field. and Granado turned his vehicle into the field as he tracked Bates.
The lawsuit argues that a photograph taken at the scene showed that Granado’s SUV was not sliding through the grass out of control, but instead, the vehicle was driven directly at Bates.
The dash camera video showed Granado driving toward Bates. The lawsuit states that the squeal of Granado’s brakes can be heard only after he hit Bates.
According to the Grand Prairie Police Department investigation into the incident, Granado was driving about 45 mph when he hit Bates’ back with the SUV.
The lawsuit stated that Bates was not holding a weapon and he did not have anything in either of his hands. He wasn’t reaching for his waistband, into his pockets, into his jacket or any other place a weapon could have been, the suit says.
After the incident, Bates told Lake Worth Officer James O’Bannon that Granado hit him with the car, and O’Bannon responded, “Probably shouldn’t have run. A lot of people think we can’t chase motorcycles. That’s wrong. We can and we will. Welcome to Lake Worth,” according to the lawsuit.
The statement was recorded on the body camera of a Sansom Park officer who was at the scene in November 2020.