By Bill Spinks
Attorneys on behalf of Ellis County resident Ruben Solis filed a motion on Wednesday to dismiss their client’s federal lawsuit against the county stemming from a 2018 arrest.
The action comes after the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court last month agreed to reach a settlement in the case.
According to Solis’s counsel with the Texas Legal Services Center, the Sheriff’s Office agreed to institute sweeping new changes including training, policies, and certifications designed to help its deputies better identify, interact with, and accommodate people who have disabilities.
"We are dismissing this case today because this agreement makes everybody safer: Mr. Solis, every person with a disability in Ellis County, and every sheriff’s deputy on the streets," said Wayne Krause Yang, one of Solis’s lawyers, in a TLSC news release. "More than 100 deputies will be trained as a result of the settlement. Approximately 30,000 people who have disabilities live in Ellis County and will benefit. It is fitting that this big victory happens shortly after the anniversary of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)."
Ellis County Sheriff Chuck Edge confirmed in an email Friday morning that the case has been settled. Edge emphasized that Solis’s lawsuit was against the county, not the Sheriff’s Office, and that the suit was filed for an ADA claim, not for police brutality.
"The Sheriff's Office will be doing some additional training as a result of this case, but much of the training is already being done on a regular basis," Edge said. "One of the training programs we will be conducting, that we have not previously done on this scale, will be provided by ARC of Texas. This will focus on interactions with individuals with disabilities."
In November 2018, Solis, who suffers from Huntington’s disease, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Dallas against the county for violating his rights under the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA.
In March of that year, Solis called the Sheriff’s Office to request a safe ride back home after he visited his daughter for lunch. Court documents state he requested the ride because of the effects his illness has had on his mental and physical capabilities, leaving him unable to operate a vehicle.
However, according to court documents, the encounter between Solis and two ECSO deputies escalated quickly, to the point where the then-67-year-old Solis was thrown to the ground and handcuffed.
Only after the booking officer at the Wayne McCollum Detention Center saw his injuries was Solis taken to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Waxahachie, where it was determined Solis’ injuries included severe bruising and lacerations to the face, and trauma to the tendons and joints in his neck and hands, the documents stated.
After his injuries were treated, Solis was charged with felony assault on a public servant and was transported back to the jail, where he spent a day before posting $10,000 bond. The assault charge was dismissed a few days later.
"The Ellis County Sheriff agreed to improve its policing in so many ways," Texas Legal Services Center attorney Ann Maldonado Heaps said. "All of its deputies will receive an in-depth training on interacting with and accommodating people who have disabilities. Separately, they will all get a training on de-escalation and limiting the use of force as well.
"In addition, at least 25 of the deputies will be fully trained and certified Mental Health Officers next year," she added. "Prior to this suit, the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office did not have any training or policies for interacting with people who have disabilities, nor were any of its deputies Mental Health Officers."