9 Investigates

Who pays Orlando police officer’s settlement for violating a man’s rights? Attorney, client wait to find out

ORLANDO, Fla. — Refus Holloway and his cousin had just broken up a fight in the Parramore neighborhood of Orlando when police arrived after being dispatched to the area for the fight. Officer William Escobar and his partner arrived at the scene without lights and sirens activated.

Orlando Police Internal Affairs determined Escobar falsified the police report about why he arrested Holloway, who later had the charges against him dropped. He had pepper spray in his eyes when Escobar handcuffed him while shouting, "I'm a cop, you understand, you stupid (expletive)!”

Escobar hit him in the back of the head twice with a closed fist before dragging him across the ground.

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Escobar was later charged with battery and falsifying a report, but a jury acquitted him, and he later got his job back with back pay and benefits.

However, a federal jury awarded Holloway $15,000 and his attorneys fees of $116,000 in 2016.

The city of Orlando was removed from the federal case and an effort to garnish Escobar’s wages failed.

The city told 9 Investigates in a statement, “Escobar was found to have violated Holloway’s 4th amendment rights and there was an award of $15,500.00 for pain and suffering and punitive damages to Holloway. Escobar requested that the City pay this judgment and his costs of defense. The City continues to arbitrate this matter and maintains the position that this judgment was against Ofc. Escobar personally and he is responsible for the judgment and all costs related thereto.”

Attorney Carlus Haynes represented Holloway in that federal case.

“At this point our client hasn't received anything,” Haynes said.

Though a federal judge granted the city's request to be removed from the original civil lawsuit, Holloway's attorney points to this timeline as to why the officer should be covered under the city’s insurance to pay out the claim:

The attack happened in March 2014, when Escobar was responding to a call as a sworn Orlando police officer.

He was charged with battery and filing a false report the following January, while still employed with the agency. That civil lawsuit was filed about two weeks later.

Escobar wasn't fired from the department until mid-February, nearly a month after that lawsuit was filed.

“Even though he was untruthful on his original police report, all the way up through the trial,” Haynes said.

Records 9 Investigates requested records dating back to 2010 that show the city has paid out nearly $3.5 million because of excessive force claims.

This case is now likely in the hands of an arbitrator who will decide whether the city should have to pay, or if the city’s stance in the matter is valid and Escobar is truly on the hook for the claim.

"All we can tell him is let’s try to wait,” Haynes said. “I know that it seems like justice delayed is justice denied and it is oftentimes. But we believe at some point in the near future he will receive his justice.”

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