APD Detective Disputes 'Chronicle' Story

Officer remembers different version of arrest of deaf-blind man

APD Detective Disputes 'Chronicle' Story

According to Austin Police Department Detective Daniel Arizpe, the Chronicle's description of the June 30, 2000, incident at the Catfish Parlour – in our Dec. 3 story "Tone Deaf," about communication problems between APD and deaf residents – was just plain wrong. "I did absolutely nothing wrong," he told us last week during a meeting at APD headquarters.

The brief passage in the story that concerns Arizpe's actions that day reads as follows: "When APD Officer Daniel Arizpe arrived, he did not provide an interpreter even after Joan repeatedly asked for one; instead, Arizpe used only his voice to communicate that he intended to arrest Richard. Richard didn't know what was happening – or even that Arizpe was a cop – and when Arizpe tried to arrest him, he bit the officer's arm." (Arizpe is not otherwise mentioned.)

Shortly after the story ran, we got a call from APD's public information office telling us that Arizpe felt he was incorrectly and unfairly portrayed and wanted a meeting with us.

At that Dec. 16 meeting, Arizpe said that we erred in reporting that he failed to call for an interpreter to communicate with Richard Bell (who is deaf and blind) and his wife, Joan (who is deaf), after the couple allegedly got into an altercation with the restaurant manager, an incident that started after the couple had requested a braille menu. Arizpe said that he did in fact call for an interpreter – three times, he says – before arresting Richard and taking him to jail. Arizpe doesn't recall how long he waited for an interpreter to arrive at the scene but estimates it was about 30 minutes. Arizpe said he also tried communicating with Richard by writing notes; he said Richard had already been trying to communicate via writing and that he believed Richard could read the notes that he wrote but refused to do so. Further, Arizpe said that an interpreter did take over once the couple was at the jail.

Arizpe said that no charges were filed because he was "trying to be nice," even though Richard had bitten him on the arm. The manager at the Catfish Parlour, who told Arizpe that Richard had struck him across the head with the white cane he uses as a mobility tool, apparently did not pursue assault charges either. (In fact, no charges of any kind were ever filed.)

Our summary of the Catfish Parlour episode was based on the court documents of record concerning the federal civil rights lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the Bells, under the terms of the Americans With Disability Act, by the Texas Civil Rights Project. As we reported, the lawsuit resulted in a settlement, under which the city agreed to ensure that every APD officer receive at least four hours of training on dealing with individuals with disabilities, including the deaf and blind.

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Austin Police Department, Daniel Arizpe, Richard Bell, Texas Civil Rights Project, Catfish Parlour, Americans With Disability Act

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