A SWAT officer who had been placed on desk duty while the department investigated him for possibly using excessive force following a two-hour police chase last week is returning to his unit.
A preliminary investigation found that no excessive force was used by officer Brian Gentry, said Cpl. Tracey Knight, police spokeswoman.
“As a result of the investigation, Officer Gentry has been taken off of restricted duty status and placed back with his unit,” Knight said in an email.
Gentry was informed Friday that he could return to his SWAT position effective Monday, said Rick Van Houten, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association.
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Terry Daffron Porter, Gentry’s attorney, said the reinstatement is a step in the right direction.
“The actions of the Fort Worth Police Department today demonstrates, at least in the case of Officer Gentry, that there is, in fact, a cure for a knee-jerk reaction,” Porter said. “It’s called doing the right thing. However, it should also come with a public apology as well.”
Gentry was one of two SWAT officers reassigned the day after the highly publicized police chase of a suspected drug dealer that stretched from Fort Worth to Arlington. The May 27 chase, which at times slowed to 2 to 5 mph, was carried on many of the local TV stations as their helicopters hovered above.
Gentry was criticized on social media after TV footage appeared to show him hitting the suspect, Joe Ben Gonzales, with the butt of his weapon as police swarmed in to arrest him.
Porter said Gentry’s movements were perceived incorrectly by the public and that he was only jerking back control of his nonlethal launcher after the suspect got caught up in the weapon’s strap and pulled it down, either intentionally or accidentally.
Both Porter and Van Houten accused the department of making a knee-jerk reaction based on social media, not facts, by placing Gentry on restricted duty and transferring another SWAT officer, Dennis Alise, to patrol.
Alise drove the armored Bearcat vehicle that struck the Nissan involved in the chase, sending it into a concrete highway divider on Interstate 30 and ending the two-hour pursuit that had, at times, weaved into Arlington residential neighborhoods.
A police department source previously told the Star-Telegram that Alise was transferred because he failed to obey the order of a sergeant seated next to him in the Bearcat, who had directed that he not hit the Nissan.
Porter has said that Alise made the split-second decision to strike the Nissan to stop a dangerous situation that was putting the public at risk.
Knight said that the investigation into the vehicle pursuit is ongoing.
Van Houten said the reinstatement of Gentry into the SWAT unit does not mean that he has been exonerated.
“The investigation is going to continue until all interviews have been completed and all available video has been reviewed,” Van Houten said.
But Van Houten said he saw the reinstatement as a positive sign.
“It doesn’t clear him but what this does indicate is there’s been enough fact-finding performed for internal affairs to be able to give a preliminary opinion that the investigation is heading toward an exoneration,” Van Houten said. “At this point, they haven’t found anything that confirms that he actually did use force on the subject.”
“This is what should have occurred first, prior to him being placed on restricted duty. They should have done enough investigation to either point towards that he did this or didn’t do this,” he added.
Gonzales has since been charged federally with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Following the chase, police found 795 grams of methamphetamine in plastic bags on the floorboard of his car, court documents indicate.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655