Seven-year San Antonio Police officer Craig Nash’s “indefinite suspension” earlier this year matured to termination, SAPD officials confirmed last week. Nash was shitcanned after a local transgender woman charged the officer with raping her while in uniform back in February. But civilian Nash’s troubles are far from over. The former man in blue has been named along with the City of San Antonio in a federal lawsuit for allegedly suppressing two evangelical Christians’ right to preach the Good News of hellfire outside the Bonham Exchange to the largely gay clientele in downtown San Antonio.
Todd Liebovitz, of Jesus Crew Street Ministries, and companion Jeremy Hiltz, were distributing Bible tracts across the street from the Bonham on July 11, 2009, at about 7 p.m. when “Officer Craig Nash approached Mr. Leibovitz and Mr. Hiltz and repeatedly threatened to arrest them and put them in jail if they continued sharing their faith,” according to the plaintiffs’ complaint.
Leibovitz told Nash that he “had every right to be there, were breaking no law and so did not intend to leave or stop sharing their faith.”
Nash allegedly replied that the pair would depart the scene in handcuffs.
Nash then returned with another officer and arrested Leibovitz and Hiltz.
“Mr. Leibovitz and Mr. Hiltz were taken to police headquarters and booked like criminals … were forced to spend the night in jail.”
The lawsuit filed in U.S. Western District Court claims that although no citation was written, the plaintiffs were cited “for peddling without a license for offering free religious literature on a public sidewalk.”
Co-plaintiff Jose Muniz also claims that SAPD officer Myron L. Oberhau cited him unlawfully in April 2006 for distributing literature at the corner of Commerce and Losoya streets and in 2010 was ordered by Oberhau to stop handing out literature.
The suit alleges the couple’s freedom of speech and religion were violated, and seeks a full trial in addition to punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Liberty Institute of Plano, a limited-government, pro-Christian non-profit legal group that also lobbies on legislative issues, is representing Leibovitz.
The City of San Antonio answered that it is immune from liability in the case because defendants’ Nash and Oberheu were acting in the exercise of a government function “having for their purpose theb, not only for the urban community, but for the public at large.”
No court date has yet been set. •
The cafeteria at McCollum High School was packed with citizens and city officials last week as the SA2020 effort continued to collect the hopes and dreams of hundreds, if not thousands, of San Antonians turning out to express what they want our city to be like a decade from now. The plan on Thursday was to sit people together to rewrite various statements about the way people see the city today and to develop a future vision.
“Dissect the vision statement at each table,” were the simply worded marching orders for participants.
Some of those statements included topics such as natural resources and environmental sustainability, government accountability and civic engagement. And many took their roles seriously, so seriously in fact that some of them refused to get up and move to another table when the time period expired.
“Leaders need to be accessible to marginal communities,” was one improvised mission statement.
Another ran on at length about finding ways to encourage local businesses to partner with the city on clean, renewable energy projects.
Another championed “state-of-the-art mass transit” and “smart growth patterns.”
“San Antonio is ripe for change, and cities throughout the United States will look at San Antonio as a model,” said Patty Ortiz, director of Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, who also served as a facilitator at one of the tables.
Mayor Julián Castro was on hand to cheer on the process, suggesting the collaborative mood present was at odds with the contentious national political climate. “It’s great to see so many people come together in a constructive way, instead of being in each other’s face.”
City Planner Tom Brereton, who helped former Mayor Henry Cisneros develop his Target 90 effort back in 1983, spoke of the differences between the two initiatives.
“This is completely different from Target 90, which was building a consensus for Cisneros’s agenda,” Brereton said. “This is goal setting of different varieties, for example, development goals for the city.”
How organic the process has been may be debated, but there are certainly themes developing here not being reflected by the talking heads on the news channels. •
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