A San Antonio police officer who was fired in October 2016 for allegedly giving a homeless man a sandwich with dog feces, had his indefinite dismissal overturned by an arbitrator.
Bike patrol Officer Matthew Luckhurst won his appeal due to a provision that prevents an officer from being disciplined after 180 days from the incident, reported KSAT-TV.
The incident was first believed to have occurred on May 6, 2016, and Luckhurst was dismissed on Oct. 28, 2016. However, during an investigation, Luckhurst determined that incident may have happened outside the 180-day window which he was originally dismissed during.
According to the arbitration documents, Luckhurst first said he and two other officers on bike patrol were clearing homeless people from a parking lot, which was marked with a “no trespassing sign.” At one point, Luckhurst noticed dog feces among an assortment of other trash. He said he picked up the feces with a piece of bread, which he then placed in a nearby food container, documents states.
He said he left the container "in close proximity" to a homeless man who picked up the container and briefly handled the sandwich before smelling it and throwing to the ground.
Another bike patrol officer told Luckhurst, "You can't be doing that. You have to go pick that up," arbitration paperwork states. The officer told authorities Luckhurst biked back to the area, returned and said he had disposed of the container, the documents state.
After Luckhurst was notified of his dismissal on Oct. 28, 2016, he reviewed his medical records and determined the incident could not have happened on May 6 because he had injured himself during a martial arts class. Between April 6, 2016, to June 14, 2016, Luckhurst was not able to ride a bike due to the injury, records state.
Additionally, paperwork revealed witnesses gave different dates about when the incident took place. Eventually, officials determined the incident may have occurred outside the 180-day window to discipline Luckhurst.
The arbitrator overturned Luckhurst's indefinite suspension due to a violation of the 180-day provision. In the records, the arbitrator also noted that Internal Affairs investigators "had (the) ability to corroborate testimony by means of having the videotape preserved and reviewed" but did not.
Additionally, San Antonio police Sgt. Michael Riggs, the individual assigned to the internal affairs investigation, did not investigate the timeline of events after the incident was reported to him on July 31, 2016. The paperwork states that Riggs also later testified that he "did not research whether there was any video recording of Luckhurst encountering a homeless person between February 1 and May 6."
Although Luckhurst's dismissal from this incident was overturned, he is still fighting a second indefinite suspension issued to him in December 2016 for a separate incident on June 12, 2016.
In that incident, suspension paperwork states that Luckhurst and another male officer are accused of defecating in the women's restroom at the bike patrol office without flushing and spreading a brown substance over the toilet seat, "giving the appearance that there was fecal matter on the seat," the disciplinary documents state.
It remains unclear when an arbitrator will review this dismissal.
(Photo: San Antonio Police Department)