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The three federal police officers who brutally assaulted Vietnam veteran José Oliva at a V.A. hospital in El Paso five years ago later claimed he tried to enter the building "without clearing security." But video of the incident shows that Oliva did nothing to justify the officers' violence, which caused shoulder injuries requiring two surgeries and left him with "persistent ear and throat issues."
In a case the Supreme Court is expected to consider for review next week, Oliva argues that he should be able to sue V.A. Officers Mario Nivar, Hector Barahona, and Mario Garcia for violating his Fourth Amendment rights. At stake is the question of whether the Court should tolerate what 5th Circuit Judge Don Willett calls a "Constitution-free zone" where citizens can be "brutalized—even killed—by rogue federal officers" with "impunity."
Oliva, then 70 years old, was on his way to a dental appointment in February 2016 when Nivar, who was manning the security station at the entrance to the V.A. hospital, asked him for ID. Oliva said he had put his ID in a plastic X-ray bin along with his other personal effects, a response that Nivar apparently viewed as insufficiently respectful.
"I got a problem with this man," Nivar told his fellow officers, according to Oliva. "He's got an attitude."
Nivar walked around the conveyor belt, took out his handcuffs, and directed Oliva toward the metal detector. As Oliva walked through, Baharona, who had gestured for him to proceed, grabbed and yanked his arm, tearing his rotator cuff; Nivar choked Oliva from behind and slammed him to the floor; and Garcia joined the attack.
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