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Officers Fired in Hog-Tying Case May Get Back Pay

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Two police officers who were fired after a hogtied man died while in police custody may get more than $47,000 a piece from the city.

Investigators determined that officers I.V. Haley and John R. Ornelas played peripheral roles in the 1999 death of Luis Enrique Hernandez.

They were among seven officers fired after an investigation showed that the officers lied about or covered up the circumstances of Hernandez's death.

Haley and Ornelas sued for back pay after the civil-service commission reinstated them. The city has negotiated the settlements with the officers, and the city council is scheduled to vote on them on Tuesday.

Haley was fired in October 1999 and reinstated in January 2001. Ornelas was fired in June 1999 and reinstated in April 2002.

"They're both very relieved that it is finally over with," Terry Hickey, an attorney for both officers, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a Saturday story.

Richard Henderson, who represented Hernandez's family in a suit against the city, questioned the payments.

"We don't think they should have been reinstated, and we don't think they should be compensated," he said.

Police Chief Ralph Mendoza said he believed the department acted appropriately when it fired the officers, but "my intention is to follow whatever the arbitration rulings are, regardless of whether I agree."

Police encountered Hernandez on New Year's Day 1999 after answering a call from a neighbor who accused him of hitting her child. Family members said Hernandez, who lived with his sister and an aunt, was schizophrenic and had not taken his medication that day.

After Hernandez and an officer scuffled inside the house, the officer used pepper spray to subdue Hernandez and called for backup, police said.

When more officers arrived, Hernandez was forced outside, thrown on the ground and hogtied, with his feet and hands bound behind his back. He later died.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that the restraint contributed to Hernandez's death, which was caused by cardiac arrest and choking on vomit.

Under department policy, police officers are not allowed to use hogtying as a method of restraint.

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