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Legal battle over 2020 traffic stop in Progreso continues

1 year 8 months 2 weeks ago Thursday, June 16 2022 Jun 16, 2022 June 16, 2022 7:24 AM June 16, 2022 in News - Local

Progreso police are accused of using the pandemic as an excuse to pull people over and ticket them, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. 

In Progreso, the Texas Civil Rights Project estimates and suspects that 70 traffic stops were made with the pretext of Hidalgo County's stay-at-home orders.

RELATED: A Texas teen driving to his mother’s house was unlawfully arrested over pandemic restrictions, lawsuit says  

Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Ricky Garza says in 2020, 18-year-old Socrates Shawn was driving to his parent's home before 10 p.m. The county's stay-at-home order took effect at 11 p.m. Shawn was arrested and charged.

"He was stopped and arrested and put in the jail," Garza said. "His car was taken away. He was fined the maximum amount of money, over $1,000 allowed under the law."

His case lasted two years in municipal court, but was ultimately dropped.

Garza is representing Shawn in a countersuit against Progreso in federal court, arguing the city targeted drivers to make money.

"They've really used the pandemic as an excuse to create a policy to arrest as many people as possible," Garza said. 

Garza says the city still hasn't come forward with information on the its policy for traffic stops in 2020.

"It's historically been difficult to get information from the city," Garza said. "We actually had to sue them in state court just to get our public information act request."

Channel 5 News reached out to the city of Progreso, and left messages for the police chief and city manager, but haven't heard back. Channel 5 News also reached out to the city's attorney about the lawsuit that's now costing Progreso taxpayers money in legal fees.

"From what we've seen from the data, Progreso abused it the most that we know," Garza said. "They, comparing for population, arrested more people as a share, than San Antonio, Austin, Pharr, pretty much everywhere else we have data from. They arrested the most people per capita that we know of in the state."

In federal court on Wednesday, Progreso asked for the case to be dismissed.

The judge challenged the city on why Shawn was stopped in the first place and denied motions for dismissal. 

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