Houston-area woman suing Santa Fe after she says officer held her down while fire ants were attacking her

Video released by Taylor Rogers’ attorney shows her screaming that ants were biting her face as a Santa Fe police officer held her down to handcuff her.

SANTA FE, Texas — A woman left covered in bug bites after she says police handcuffed her and held her down in a bed of fire ants has filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Fe.

Police say there’s more to the story. 

Warning: Some people may find images below in this story disturbing

The lawsuit stems from the 2021 arrest of Taylor Rogers by the Santa Fe Police Department. 

“Taylor Rogers was stopped by Santa Fe police for no reason, thrown on the ground right into a bed of fire ants in the middle of the day and then held there while screaming,” civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen said during a news conference on Saturday.

Police body camera footage shared with KHOU 11 News by Kallinen shows a portion of Rogers’ arrest before it cuts off. She was on the ground being handcuffed when she started screaming.

“Ants are on my face, ants are getting on my face, please!” Rogers could be heard yelling in the video. “How can y’all do this? Ants are on my face! Please let go!”

She was handcuffed and couldn’t swipe the ants off and she said the officers didn’t do it for her.

Kallinen shared images that show Rogers covered in fire ant bites on her face, neck, chest and shoulders. 

“Is it torture? Yeah that’s a strong word but I call it torture,” Kallinen said. “When the police hold you down in a fire ant bed and you’re saying fire ants and screaming, and they keep you there, what is that?”

Rogers said the whole thing happened in front of her 9-year-old son who was in the back seat of her vehicle.

In a prepared statement, Rogers said the officers showed an “absence of empathy and human compassion.”

The civil rights lawsuit also names two SFPD officers.

What police say happened

Santa Fe ISD Police Chief Ruben Espinoza said he stopped Rogers that day because she tried to make an illegal turn into the school parking lot. Espinoza said Rogers became irate, ignored him and drove toward the back parking lot. He said another officer tried to stop her. 

“When she [the officer] gave the description of the vehicle, I immediately knew who it was. So, I approached the intersection and observed Miss Rogers fleeing,” Espinoza said. “She was also passing a vehicle in the grassy area on the right side when I tried to get in front of her to stop. She didn’t put her vehicle in reverse and fled from me.”

Rogers said she didn’t stop because she was scared after the officer pounded on her vehicle and pointed a gun at her. She said she didn’t know what to do because her son was in the car. 

That’s when Espinoza said he used his car to stop Rogers and SFPD officers pulled her from the vehicle and placed her in cuffs. 

The police chief shared images of Rogers’ arrest, saying no fire ant beds were visible. 

He said the body camera video shared by Kallinen is misleading and Rogers was treated with “respect and dignity.”

“They stopped the clip that they provided to you. The officer says, ‘Calm down and we will lift you up,'” Espinoza said. “At that point, she said, ‘OK I will calm down,’ and they lifted her up immediately.”

According to Espinoza, Rogers later pleaded guilty to the charges associated with fleeing from police. Kallinen said she was sentenced to deferred adjudication. 

The officers involved were found to have acted appropriately, according to Kallinen. As part of her lawsuit, Rogers is calling for the officers to be disciplined and wants additional de-escalation training for the department.

“While I forgive those officers for their actions that day, I refuse to remain silent in the face of a violation of my son’s and my civil rights,” said Rogers.

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