Thalia Huynh relives the memories of June 21, 2017 every day. Huynh and her daughter, Dalena Bustos, were both under arrest, twisting and turning on the floor of a west Houston Walmart.
“Oh my gosh, I was so humiliated,” Huynh recalled. “It’s very embarrassing.”
According to Huynh, around 6:30 that night, she and her daughter went to the Walmart at 2700 S. Kirkwood to buy food.
Huynh said they left after her sister called and told them she had already started making dinner. As the pair was leaving, police records show a plain-clothes loss prevention officer approached them.
Huynh said she didn’t know at the time that the man worked for Walmart.
“We’re walking out and a man approaches me, and he grabs my purse, right before we walk out of the store, and I’m grabbing my purse back from him,” she remembers.
A tussle ensued between the loss prevention officer and Huynh. The cell phone video published on social media shows what happened after both women were on the ground.
Huynh’s pants even fell off during the struggle. She is seen on video with a large group of people looking on, in handcuffs, and only wearing thong underwear. At one point, a Walmart employee used a shopping bag to try and cover her private areas.
Huynh can be heard screaming about her medical condition, as well as a battery on her back during the altercation. She said she has had several back surgeries, and the officer’s treatment of her impacted her health.
“Do you feel like you tried to assault a police officer?” we asked.
“No, no,” said Huynh. “As you can see in the video, we weren’t resisting arrest, I was trying to tell him about my back.”
Both women were charged with assault of a peace officer.
Bustos, the daughter, was also charged with robbery. The robbery charge was dismissed after both women agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge. They were sentenced to one year deferred adjudication.
Huynh said they pleaded to a lesser charge only because they were running out of resources to fight the charges, and she did not want her daughter to risk jail time.
Huynh gave Eyewitness News permission to speak to her defense attorney. The attorney said it was her belief, looking at the evidence, that taking a plea deal would be the best course of action. She did not go into further details about the charges against Huynh.
As for the officer’s conduct, court records show a Houston Community College Officer, Marcus McNeil, was the one working an extra job on June 21. He is seen as the main uniformed officer on the video. Police reports indicate McNeil then called Houston Police for help. HPD responded to the scene as an “assist the officer” call.
In the video, an officer can be seen using his baton to position the women as they lay on the ground in handcuffs. HPD said that officer is one of two Westside Patrol officers who responded to the call. As is standard HPD procedure, because a baton was used, an investigation was conducted. HPD said its investigation found the HPD officer to be justified in using the baton as a positioning tool.
Huynh said her main concern is the actions of HCC officer working the extra job. McNeil is identified as the officer the women allegedly kicked at Walmart. HCC would only confirm that an Officer McNeil was on its staff. It was not otherwise aware of the video.
Currently, Huynh and her daughter Bustos are on one year deferred adjudication and will have to pay court ordered fines. She said, in her opinion, she and her daughter did nothing wrong, and only pleaded guilty because they felt like they had no other options.
“It’s something that I would never want anyone I care about to go through,” Huynh said.
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