A firestorm erupted last March when a video surfaced that showed a Texas police officer pepper spraying a group of motorcyclists riding past his patrol car. Motorcyclists who watched the video (now with more than three million views) were angered at the apparent assault on riders. The cop, William Figueroa, claimed he needed to spray the riders because they wouldn’t vacate the lane next to his patrol car that was pulled over at the side of the road.

Surely the overly aggressive cop would be severely reprimanded for his actions that could’ve hurt or even killed riders as they rode past, right? Well, thanks to our favorite moto-riding attorney, John Butrus, we were able to dig into the situation. Sadly, the outcome of the investigation seems to be far too lenient for an officer who demonstrated a complete lack of concern for the safety of our fellow riders. —Kevin Duke, Editor-in-Chief


In March, Tom Roderick wrote an article about Officer William Figueroa who pepper sprayed several motorcyclists in Fort Worth, Texas. In his police report, Figueroa offered this nonsensical explanation for his conduct:

“Multiple motorcycles would not vacate the lane closest to my marked patrol car. I deployed my pepper spray into the lane closest to me, at which point approaching motorcycles began to vacate the lane, allowing me to conduct a traffic stop.”

Pepper Spraying Texan Cop’s Excuse Is Complete BS

The Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) put Figueroa on administrative leave for several weeks while it investigated the incident. Figueroa returned to duty in June, however, apparently without punishment.

I sent email inquiries to the FWPD to find out whether Figueroa received a reprimand or other punishment for the pepper-spray incident.

“The investigation is complete and the internal affairs case has been sent to his chain of command for recommendations,” replied Officer Jimmy Pollozani. Translation: FWPD hasn’t yet decided whether, or how, to punish Officer Figueroa. I found nothing to indicate Figueroa may be charged with a crime.

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​In a subsequent telephone conversation, Officer Pollozani suggested I file an open-records request if I wanted more information, so I filed that request with the City of Fort Worth (“City”) on August 1, 2016, asking:

“​Any and all records related to the Fort Worth Police Department and Internal Affairs investigation of the March 13, 2016 incident in which Fort Worth Police Officer William Figueroa used pepper spray on passing motorcyclists. Please include, among other things, all records related to the investigation, conclusions/findings of fact, and punishment assessed against Officer Figueroa if any.​” ​

The Texas Public Information Act (“Act”) gave Fort Worth 10 business days to respond to my request. At 5:10 P.M. on the tenth day, just hours before the deadline to respond expired, a Fort Worth Assistant City Attorney (“Attorney”) responded to my request; sort of.

In a letter, the Attorney advised me Fort Worth believes some or all of the documents I requested are exempted from production pursuant to the Act. The City has requested, pursuant to the Act, an opinion from the Texas Attorney General as to which, if any, documents may be exempted from production. In other words, the City doesn’t want to give me any records related to the investigation into the Figueroa incident.

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The City submitted its arguments and the responsive documents to the Texas Attorney General, who has 45 business days from today to render his opinion as to which, if any, documents requested are exempted from production. Of course, if the City disagrees with the Attorney General’s decision it may appeal, which would further delay disclosure.

I spoke with the Attorney assigned to appeal my open-records request related to Officer Figueroa. The Attorney stated Figueroa has not yet been disciplined. If he receives punishment that includes a 1-day or longer suspension, the Internal Affairs investigation documents are discoverable. If the punishment is less than 1-day, or does not include a suspension from duty, the documents are not discoverable.

In its brief to the Attorney General, the City Attorney will argue none of the documents are discoverable until the police department assesses punishment. If after the police department assesses punishment, the documents remain protected from disclosure we can infer Figueroa received a minimal punishment; i.e., less than 1-day suspension.

I asked the Attorney how citizens were supposed to find out what discipline an offending Officer receives if the City blocks opens records requests and the police will not respond to inquires.

“I understand your frustration, but all I can tell you is we have appealed your request to the Attorney General,” responded the Attorney, I pressed her for information, but she provided none. In my experience, it is standard operating procedure for government entities to stonewall requests for information; especially when they have something to hide.

Paradoxically, the Public Information Act provides:

“… it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees…. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know….”

I guess Fort Worth did not get the memo.

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A decision not to punish Officer Figueroa would call into question the wisdom in allowing police departments to decide what constitutes inappropriate police conduct in a given community. An obvious conflict exists where police departments investigate themselves, and no reasonable community would countenance a police officer pepper spraying passing motorcyclists.

The pepper-spray incident occurred on March 13, 2016, and could easily have caused a multi-vehicle crash that injured or killed motorists. Nevertheless, authorities did not charge Figueroa with a crime, nor has he received police department discipline. It should not take more than five months for the FWPD to investigate this matter and assess appropriate punishment.

If this is what happens when an officer is caught on video pepper spraying motorcyclists, I can only imagine what happens when no one is looking. Clearly, Fort Worth has not taken this incident seriously.

  • Born to Ride

    Scum Bag’s gonna scum… “Protect and serve” themselves.

  • Starmag

    It’d be great if this was the worst thing that a cop got away with. Unfortunately it’s not even close.

  • Ian Parkes

    Great work John. Really quite shocking. Is there an independent complaints authority like the Ombudsman we have here in New Zealand who could look into this stonewalling and their failure to comply with the Public Information Act? Good to know too that if the documents stay hidden Figuera essentially got off scott-free -which is pretty obviously already. As you say, it’s difficult to conceive of how they could still be considering this.

    I mean his explanation, leaving aside the danger he’s creating, is laughable. He’s got tons of room. The non-appearance of outrage or even concern at his betrayal of the principle of public service from his colleagues and bosses shows prima facie they could not give a flying fig about public safety. Surely that’s grounds for a complaint about the whole rotten mess of them to an independent authority too?

    • E-Nonymouse A

      To my knowledge disciplinary records of police officers in the U.S. are not public record and generally held to be private information, protected as such unlike criminal criminal records or convictions which are publicly available.

      • Kevin Duke

        Makes sense if you’ve got something to hide. Why should such info be held secret?

        • E-Nonymouse A

          I’m not saying its right thats just how it is.

        • Hillary For Prison 2016

          All employment disciplinary-records are private in this country.

      • John B.

        In this instance the police officer’s records would not have been protected from disclosure if he received a punishment that included a 1-day or longer suspension. In addition, even if the police officer’s records were not subject to disclosure, the police department could have voluntarily released documents related to their investigation and/or made a public statement to explain their decision.

  • JMDonald

    I am not surprised at the lack of information given up by the Fort Worth government. They live inside a delusional reality that fosters a false sense of superiority and precludes any idea of accountability. A typical example of the state protecting itself at the expense of the people. Officer Figueroa is still out there. At least we got that going for us. Which is nice. A pox on them.

  • Old MOron

    Thank you, John. You do everyone a great service by holding Fort Worth accountable. I can imagine it’s a tedious, joyless task. Thanks, man.

    • John B.

      You’re welcome OM. At a minimum, I thought Fort Worth would discipline Figueroa out of self interest, or disclose additional facts that would support their decision not to discipline him. Instead, they showed the very tone deafness that makes life more difficult for the police and those they serve. We’re not missing any information. FW saw the same facts we saw, and decided to impose little or no punishment. It is what it is.

  • timothyhood

    Unfortunately, it seems our best defense is to ride with cameras constantly recording. I’m not sure how many times this officer would need to commit and egregious act before he was disciplined, but one can only hope a camera will catch it every time it happens. This was a demonstration of such poor judgment that one would have expected discipline to have been meted swiftly and appropriately matched to the seriousness of the act.

    Instead, the officer got what amounted to a paid vacation. Almost as if the department said, “Nice job, officer. Next time, try not to get caught so we don’t have so much paperwork to fill out.”

    • E-Nonymouse A

      Yep ride with a camera but also don’t selectively omit the portions where the riders intentionally impeded or provoked a response from the officer while he was attempting to do his job. Not all cops are bad guys, this piece published by the site does not tell the full story. There are plenty of motorists and motorcyclists who behave very antagonistically towards cops particularly in groups.

      • John Ross

        Intentionally provoked? Were they circling the officer somehow? Or, did he pepper spray motorcyclists IN MOTION on a public highway based on the actions of OTHER cyclists who had recently passed?
        This is battery, reckless endangerment and depraved indifference. If the state won’t prosecute, the riders should sue.

        • Strat

          There’s always one.

          • diggerw900

            Yup probably a disgruntled cop with an inferiority complex.

      • Timothy Evans

        BS – plain BS. Such faulty reasoning exposes you as a democrat.

        • therr850

          Oh God, here we go. One is a republican, another is a democrat. “Can’t we all just get along?” Campaign’s have gotten too long.

      • Jamie

        I assume that Trump can count on your vote.

        • E-Nonymouse A

          i was considering voting for Eli Whitney but decided upon Robert Oppenheimer for president instead.

        • diggerw900

          I pray your NOT voting hellery.

      • timothyhood

        You are implying in this case that somehow the officer was being unsafely passed by the bikers when the pictures above clearly show:

        1) the bikers are in the far left of the lane

        2) the car behind the bikers is going to be much closer to the officer
        3) the officer is getting out of his car, probably after having retrieved his pepper spray

        If the officer was ever physically unsafe, it’s because he put himself in harm’s way

        Until you provide any evidence that contradicts what we see, I reject your argument as inane.

      • Ian Parkes

        What? Does this piece try to say all cops are bad guys? And that ‘taken out of context’ excuse is totally irrelevant, as usual – and especially so in this case. Even if another motorcyclist ‘provoked’ him it’s still all kinds of wrong for Officer Funkwit to abuse his powers to take it out on others and endanger their lives.

        • E-Nonymouse A

          Actually, yes the tone in coverage of actions by LEO in the media is decidedly one-sided, and the violence towards officers these days is getting ridiculous.

          • Ian Parkes

            I agree with everything you say, except for ‘one-sided’ I’d substitute ‘fair’ and for ‘getting ridiculous’ I’d say ‘hardly surprising’. I recommend you see the documentary “Peace Officer” and draw your attention to a new initiative sending law-enforcers to Scotland to see how they de-escalate confrontations and use humour instead of weapons. But I’ve got a weird view. I also live in country where the police use conversation rather than gunfire as an opening gambit.

      • Christopher Angel

        Octogenarian control freaks and authority obsessed sociopaths may agree but the rest of the populace favor police accountability. The notion that the public is there to respect the police is also obsolete. Police now labor under the weight of years of their own mistreatment of the public. This is just another example of why organizations advocating for police accountability are now unstoppable. Lots of luck peddling nonsense though e-mouse.

  • kenneth_moore

    I guess that logo on the side of Office Asshat’s patrol car stands for “Bullshit.”

  • allworld

    There is a real and justifiable reason why citizens do not and should not trust or have any confidence in police officers and their political protectors, not just in Texas but nation wide.
    I will never trust a cop.

    • https://www.facebook.com/karl.hungus.984 Karl Hungus

      Yours is not an unreasonable attitude.

    • Strat

      As much as I try to, it’s gotten to the point where I don’t. I don’t want it to be that way, they breed that attitude in people. They’re always right, never wrong, which means they lie. I do everything I can to avoid having to deal with them because it can lead to dealing with judges and lawyers which I want nothing to do with. Because at that point, God forbid my fate is ever in the hands of a jury. I was on a jury. I wanted to be on it, I wanted to go through the process, but after that, I’d rather just do a coin flip then be in the sites of that gun loaded with stupid. Peers my a**.

      • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

        That’s because most people are idiots and ignoramuses.

  • Vrooom

    So glad you guys followed up on this. Nice job. It’s just hard to believe a police department tolerates this.

    • obocaj

      not really

  • Bruce Steever

    I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

  • M109Rider

    I get a STRONG sense of Napoleon Syndrome being demonstrated here. THESE are the types of people that give LEOs a bad image. Just like the public stunters give motorcyclists a bad image.
    Door wide open, and according to the pictures, the motorcycles were moving over…
    I’ve seen, even during DAY TIME CONDITIONS LEOs using the ‘traffic wands’ to wave traffic over. Works better.
    I’ve been terminated for mundane things. This incident is FAR past mundane. His actions could have hurt and/or killed more than 1 person. Okay, it didnt…now FWPD has a black flag hanging over their heads because of this lil fella with a badge.

  • Don Ellis

    I can only imagine what the FWPD would have done if the rolls were reversed. Can you imagine spraying a cop with pepper spray? Or throwing something, anything, at a cop while he is riding his motorcycle? I’m thinking Joe Citizen gets arrested and charged with felonious assault. When the cop does it, he doesn’t even get in trouble. Now, how are we supposed to trust cops like that??

  • roebling

    Laws don’t apply to cops, silly!

  • Tinwoods

    Just stop riding in these ridiculous and obnoxious herds. Problem solved.

    • https://www.facebook.com/karl.hungus.984 Karl Hungus

      In other words, if you don’t want to be the victim of a potentially deadly criminal assault, don’t do anything to annoy your assailant.

  • https://www.facebook.com/karl.hungus.984 Karl Hungus

    If those bikers had stopped, gotten off their bikes, and beaten Mr. Figueroa to a pulp, it would’ve warmed my heart.

  • Laszlo Sz

    In an ultimate democracy (a press of a button at home), how many voters wouldn’t instantly kick out a public servant who attack/pepper the public, instead choose a better way to inform them that the (public) lane beside him needed to be empty? Maybe a minigun could do the trick next time…
    “Government is at best a petulant servant and at worst a tyrannical master. – George Washington”

  • I’m with Hillary!

    Avoid Texas. Build a wall, between Texas and the U.S.

  • patroy75

    Dude should get prison time. Stupidity should not be allowed on the police force.

  • espania1958

    Looks to me like the person taking the pictures of this is stopped in the middle of the road. What was happening moments before this, that the camera man had time to stop and use his camera. I usually have good experiences with the police and I have been riding for 43 years. I believe if your looking for trouble you will find it and it seems alot of riders have no respect for anyone and now adays love trolling officers to get a camera response. Life is to short to waste your time messing with the very people you call when your in trouble. Very hypocritical to me. IMHO

  • Aurora

    American idiot cop,already seen many times over and over,pure McDonald’s bully

  • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

    More transparency from the police and they wonder why they have a PR problem, but hey, it’s not their fault, right? :/

  • nobody24

    Cop should be castrated, so he can have no offspring. Defective humans like this need to not be allowed to procreate.
    The other pigs “protecting” him should be fired, they and the department and the city should be sued into bankrupcy.

  • elusive one

    The most appropriate option at this time is to circulate a petition, hopefully a huge one, this website whining is wonderful, alerts people, but will never lever them into a position that mandates accountability. My personal position, if this is actually an accurate account of all that happened, is this officer assaulted the public with intentions of doing mass harm, which may or may not have ended in severe physical injury or death, potentially in fairly large numbers. What would he have done if riders started swerving to avoid the spray and chain reaction-ed a 10-15 bike accident? Petition, petition, petition, force this over their heads and out of their hands, push it to the dockett of an elected politician.

  • Ian Parkes

    I was amazed that the police force seemed content with this terrible slur on their reputation but I see now it actually upholds their reputation. Came across this today from Paul Theroux, passing through Fort Worth in the 1970s. Virtually his first comment is on the police: “I left my suitcase at the railway station. I had not liked the look of Forth Worth. It had been recommended to me as friendlier and more graspable than Dallas, and yet that February it looked merely grey and grit-blown, a Texas town of pompous insignificance, the desert wind whirling gory ketchup-soaked sandwich wrappers at men clutching their ridiculous hats.
    “Every public place displayed the same ominous sign. The warning went as follows: ‘These premises may be occupied by a policeman armed with a shotgun. if ordered to halt – please comply! – Forth Worth Police Dept’.
    “It was perhaps a comment on Forth Worth friendliness that the citizens needed to be reminded that a man with a shotgun meant business, and was not the clay-pigeon enthusiast he seemed.”

  • Ric Hill

    Welcome to the new world where only the rich (i.e. municipalities, hedge fund managers, political candidates) have rights. If the City of Fort Worth were informed of a financial boycott, I bet it would make a difference. Resident of Dallas County, TX are also incensed about this. So let’s boycott flying into DFW airport. Let’s say so daily in letters and email to the above address.

    Let’s not stop with just FW, the Governor’s office only has limited staff for this. Forwarding this to any and every one will get a message out.

  • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

    It seems to be a spreading policy among police. Must be to foil law suits. http://reason.com/blog/2016/08/25/nypd-rejects-transparency-secrecy

  • Strat

    Look at the traffic. If he blind the bikers and they lose control of their bikes, it only takes one of them to go down and cause a massive pile up resulting in injury and most likely death(s). It’s an incredibly stupid decision on the officer’s part.

  • Warprints

    Texas law does not mandate that you vacate the land next to a stopped emergency vehicle. It provides that you either vacate the lane OR slow to no more than 20 mph below the posted speed limit (on a road such as this one). I can’t tell from the video what the speed limit is or the speed of the motorcycles, but it appears the guy videoing slowed significantly.

  • paultd

    With pepper spray in my eyes, I think I would have lost control of my motorcycle and speared the ‘officer’ with my front wheel. Good thing I wear a helmet, unlike the dipshit cop who’s going above and beyond to gas citizens

  • scout

    Fort Worth is insane.

  • manfromsima

    Let me state that i have been riding 25 year .In the last few years I have seen the sport bike guys doing a lot of crazy stuff.Wheelies on the freeway at speed all the way up to a large group of them stopping traffic on a 3 lane freeway while they do there stunts and other stupid crap.Im sure its not just here in Vegas as well.So is it any wonder with that and cops being shot at and shot dead that there a little on edge.Im not saying that the pepper spaying was a good idea but take a moment to consider everything before you go off the deep end Motorcycle.com and fellow readers.

  • QuestionMark666

    This is correctly characterised as a clear example of law enforcement protected by a system that blocks discipline and accountability. There is no check in the system to balance abuse of power. Civilian oversight and required transparency are the only answer to the increasingly abusive parts of the police forces in America. It will not get better until police lose the protections of these internal anonymus investigations.

  • NovAKs47

    So if it had been a line of cars not moving over, what would Officer Figueroa have done? Deployed a spike strip?

    I’m tired of fools putting motorcycles in some sort of special category, as if they’re some type of ominous threat simply by being there, and in a large group. And just because they’re not cars, apparently hostile and deadly actions are deemed “ok” or justifiable, cop or not. Imagine the outrage if that had been a group of spandex clad bicyclists! It’d be all over the news for days. But no, since it’s motorcyclists, nobody cares. In fact, I see comments on other sites where crybaby cagers think this is great. I think those people have no business being on public roads, as they clearly can’t handle it.

  • Ralph1001

    On the flip side what would happen to a regular citizen that sprayed pepper spray or mace at a motorcycle officer as they rode by? Doesn’t take much of an imagination to figure that out.

    • Difdi

      Just tell the judge that you felt the officers were passing at an unsafely close distance, and when they would not move to a safe distance, you felt you had no choice.

      Under the laws of Texas, if any of the motorcyclists that day had deployed their own pepper spray against the officer, it would have been a completely lawful act of self defense.

  • Difdi

    Given that unequal enforcement of the law violates the equal protection clause of the US constitution, and a prosecutor is an officer of the court, we appear to have a de facto declaration that it is not illegal to stand on the side of a road in Texas and hose passing vehicles down with pepper spray.

    Perhaps as a protest, people could line up along the driveway leading to that officer’s department and spray passing police cars? After all, if it’s not illegal…

  • Redduke

    I thought the law was to either pull over OR drop to 20 miles per hour under the speed limit?