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Lawsuit claims BCSO deputies use baseless traffic stops to conduct illegal searches

A Houston man found himself in the back of a squad car for about an hour while deputies dug through his truck.

SAN ANTONIO — A driver is taking the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) to court over a traffic stop.

The lawsuit, filed last week, claims the deputy falsified a traffic offense to perform an illegal search.

In March 2022, a Houston businessman found himself in the back of a squad car while deputies rifled through his truck. They were looking for drugs he didn’t have, body camera video shows. The traffic stop lasted more than an hour.

“I was absolutely humiliated and terrified once more officers started showing up,” said Alek Schott.

Schott says he works in the oil and gas industry and travels through Bexar County often.

“I was driving back from a customer site,” said Schott. “We were installing equipment to help with emission reduction. I was driving back up I-35, just cruising along with traffic, and I got pulled over. I thought I was speeding or something normal. Within 14 seconds, he was at my window which seemed strange.”

The Institute for Justice is representing Schott. This week, the nonprofit law firm released a 10-minute video that includes the Bexar County deputy’s body camera footage.

In the video, you can hear the deputy say, “The only reason I am stopping you is when I was watching you over there, you were drifting over that fog line pretty hard.”

Schott’s own dashcam video shows he was seemingly between the lines as he passed the squad car.

The deputy then asks Schott to get out of his truck and get into the front of the squad car. There, the deputy spends the next 10 minutes asking Schott questions, including if he has money or drugs in his truck.

“What I am is – I am on a Criminal Interdiction Unit,"  the deputy said. “So, I don't have to deal with all that crap. I don’t give tickets, I give warnings. And the main reason is I sit on the side of the highway, and I am out here looking for – because it’s bad out here – I am looking for big shit. Human smuggling, drug smuggling, things like that.”

The deputy asks Schott if he can search his truck.

“I prefer not,” Schott replies. 

Schott told KENS 5 he had nothing to hide, but was increasingly uncomfortable with how he was being treated.

“It went from good cop to, ‘We are going to search your car now and you are going to sit in my vehicle and wait for a drug dog to arrive,’” said Schott.

The deputy called a K-9 unit, and the dog can be seen alerting its handler.

Schott is then put in the back of the squad car, while officers go through the contents of his truck.

“There was quite a bit of damage,” Schott told KENS 5. “The dog itself scratched several of the body panels. It’s excessive in every capacity. They kept digging in, and they kept getting frustrated that they didn’t find anything. Like, ‘Guys, there’s two car seats and an overnight bag. There’s nothing going on here.’ This was a clear targeted attack on someone who isn’t hiding anything.”

After deputies were unable to find evidence of criminal activity, Schott is released with a warning to stay in one lane.

Before Schott leaves, the deputy tells him “I try not to be a jerk about things because 9 times out of 10, this is what happens.”

“The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable violations and seizures,” said Schott's attorney, Josh Windham. “If you look at Alek’s personal dashcam footage, there’s no evidence that he was actually drifting over the fog line – or any line – at the time of the stop. So, that initial stop itself was unconstitutional. The next violation happened when [the deputy] extended the stop to investigate Alek for crimes. He has run all of his computer checks, he’s had enough time to issue Alek a warning for the supposed traffic violation, and yet he starts to question him. The final violation is when [the deputy] actually searches his car. Calling the drug dog to the scene itself is unconstitutional. It seems from the video like the handler signals for the dog to alert, like he prompts the dog. That is a constitutional violation.”

The purpose of the lawsuit is to put an end to BCSO’s practices of allegedly stopping people for random searches. No dollar amount is listed, but Schott is seeking damages.

“Everyone should be allowed to drive in the state of Texas and across the country without fear of their car being ransacked and being taken to jail for no reason at all,” Schott said.

Responding to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the Bexar County Sheriff's Office said the agency was unable to comment due to pending litigation. 

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