A Fort Worth police officer, caught on video this month pepper-spraying passing motorcyclists, said he used the inflammatory substance because he wanted the motorcyclists to move out of the lane next to his patrol car during a traffic stop, the officer wrote in his incident report.
In the report, dated March 13, officer W. Figueroa details how he was responding to reports of reckless driving when he pulled over the driver of a red 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup about 3 p.m. in the 1500 block of the Martin Luther King Freeway.
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“Multiple motorcycles would not vacate the lane closest to my marked patrol car,” Figueroa wrote. “I deployed my pepper spray into the lane closest to me at which point approaching motorcycles began to vacate the lane allowing me to conduct a traffic stop.”
Figueroa, who has been on the Fort Worth force since 2009, was placed on administrative duty after the incident.
Under the 2003 Awareness of Authorized Emergency Vehicle law, better known as the “move over law,” drivers in Texas are required to move over one lane or slow to at least 20 mph under the posted speed limit when encountering an emergency vehicle, such as a police cruiser, with its lights on. Violators can be fined.
One of the motorcycle riders, Chase Stone, president of an East Texas motorcycle “team” known as the East Texas Heat, shot video with his GoPro camera of Figueroa spraying toward the riders. Stone posted the video on his Facebook page, writing that an estimated 200 motorcyclists had joined in a “Welcome Back Weather” ride to commemorate the beginning of biking season.
Stone’s video shows a caravan of motorcyclists and an officer emerging from a patrol car with a canister in his right hand. He then sprayed passing motorcyclists.
On March 13, several people called 911 to report reckless drivers northbound on the MLK Freeway, according to a police report.
A MedStar ambulance was called but everyone refused treatment except for one man, who asked to be taken to the hospital to be checked out.
On Tuesday, the Star-Telegram obtained from Fort Worth police an edited dash-cam video from Figueroa’s patrol car. It shows the pickup being pulled over and subsequently Figueroa talking to the occupants. The dash-cam, which is pointed forward, did not record the pepper-spraying, which occurred on the side of the cruiser.
Figueroa wrote that he saw the pickup traveling slowly northbound on the freeway in the center lane. He wrote that two men were “coordinating with approximately 50 motorcycles to block the hwy/roadway in an attempt to digitally record the motorcycles driving recklessly.”
“The motorcycles were driving on one wheel and weaving in and out of traffic not allowing motorists to pass,” he wrote. There were reports of reckless driving that included multiple motorcycles “racing and stopping and weaving through cars.”
Callers also said motorcycles were riding slowly and blocking traffic, Figueroa wrote.
The Fort Worth officer was placed on administrative duties after a Facebook video called attention to his pepper-spraying motorcyclists.
In the dash-cam video, two men and a woman are in the open bed of the pickup. They appear to be coughing, rubbing their eyes and retching.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.