Lawsuit: Texas city refused escort to protect Biden bus

SAN MARCOS, Texas (AP) — Police officials in a Central Texas city refused to provide an escort for a Joe Biden campaign bus when it was surrounded by supporters of then-President Donald Trump on an interstate, an amended lawsuit filed over the 2020 encounter alleges.

The updated lawsuit, filed Friday, included transcribed 911 audio recordings, The Texas Tribune reported. The suit alleges that law enforcement officers in San Marcos “privately laughed” and “joked about the victims and their distress” in the audio recordings.

The city of San Marcos didn’t return a request for comment from the newspaper. A spokesperson previously has said that the city and the San Marcos Police Department would not comment because of the pending litigation.

Videos shared on social media from Oct. 30, 2020, show a group of cars and pickup trucks — many adorned with large Trump flags — riding alongside the campaign bus as it traveled from San Antonio to Austin. The “Trump Train” at times boxed in the bus. At one point, one of the pickups collided with an SUV behind the bus.

The Biden bus was traveling to San Marcos for a political event that Democrats ended up canceling. Neither Biden nor his running mate, then-Sen. Kamala Harris, were aboard. Then-President Donald Trump criticized the FBI at the time after the agency said it was investigating.

According to the transcriptions, when the Biden bus entered San Marcos’ jurisdiction, a New Braunfels 911 dispatcher tried to get San Marcos police to take over the escort that New Braunfels had provided along Interstate 35. A police corporal told a San Marcos dispatcher “we’re not going to escort a bus,” according to the documents.

The dispatcher told one bus passenger to call back if the caller felt threatened.

“Are you kidding me, ma’am?” the caller replied. “They’ve cut in on me multiple times. They’ve threatened my life on multiple occasions with vehicular collision.”

According to the documents, Chase Stapp, the public safety director, later texted to police that “from what I can gather, the Biden bus never even exited I-35 thanks to the Trump escort.” Police in later emails called it a “debacle” and prepared for a “political fire storm.”

A report of the incident four days later cited “staffing issues, lack of time to plan, and lack of knowledge of the route” as reasons police did not provide an escort.

However, Lisa Prewitt, a former San Marcos City Council member who was a candidate for the county commission at the time, told the Tribune that she notified local law enforcement 24 hours before the event and mentioned safety concerns.

The lawsuit alleges that police and the city violated an 1871 law that’s often called the “Ku Klux Klan Act,” originally designed to stop political violence against Black people. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

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