Blind woman, forced to leave local restaurant
Posted in the Copperas Cove Forum
#1 May 29, 2009
A new resident in Copperas Cove is considering legal action after being forcefully removed from a local restaurant.
Nanette Ballou lost her sight 11 years ago due to multiple eye traumas. She is assisted by Rusty, a white Berger De Picard or French sheepdog, who was trained at Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Mich.
While she does have limited vision in her right eye, similar to looking through a straw, she can't process depth of field or see anything other than what she is directly looking at. Also, any change in lighting like moving from indoors to outdoors causes her total blindness for five to 10 minutes until her eyes adjust.
"He protects me," Ballou said about Rusty. "He keeps me from bumping into things and from tripping over curbs. But it's still scary to walk places like parking lots where not everyone is paying attention and I don't have any peripheral vision to rely on."
On Thursday, May 7, after picking up Rusty from the dog groomers, Ballou and Rusty along with her daughter and two grandchildren went to Taco Bell. The family placed their order, picked up their food and was about to eat when Cynthia, a night manager, approached their table and asked, "Is that a Seeing Eye," Ballou recalled.
"No, he's a guide dog, a Leader Dog," Ballou said to correct the manager.
Ballou said not all guide dogs are Seeing Eye's. It depends on what school they go to and her dog went to the Leader Dog school.
"It's like calling an A&M student a Longhorn," she said. "I was trying to educate her that there are more kinds of guide dogs, not just Seeing Eye. But she had no part of it."
The manager told Ballou the health department would shut them down if they saw the dog in the restaurant and then asked for identification for the dog as a guide dog.
Ballou showed her the special harness Rusty wears identifying him as a Leader Dog and stood her ground as she began to feel harassed.
The manager said she was going to call the cops and Ballou said, "Go ahead, save me the call."
#2 May 29, 2009
Six Copperas Cove police officers in three patrol cars arrived on the scene.
When the police arrived, Ballou said they did not identify themselves and the first officer, whose name she was never given, told her "Lady, you and the dog have to get out."
She told the officer Rusty is a service dog and Texas law allows him to be with her. She showed him a law book she carries with her with all the state and federal laws for the blind across the country, but said the officer would not look at it.
She told the officer she just moved to Copperas Cove and said she can't believe they don't know what the law is. She said the officer told her "Welcome to Copperas Cove, if you don't like our laws, leave."
She said the same officer told her, "You don't look blind" because she was looking at him while he spoke to her. She said it is common courtesy in the visual world to look at someone when they speak to you and you don't have to be sighted to do so.
A second officer on scene Cpl. Shane Kieltyka did read her law book, she said, because she believes he understood she was trying to diffuse the situation.
#3 May 29, 2009
"When the first officer approached me, it flustered me," she said. "But I stood my ground."
Her daughter, Jennifer Warden, said when the police arrived they crowded around the table
making it difficult for them to leave like they were being told. One of the officers also followed Warden to her car, speaking in a confrontational voice while blocking her in the corner of her car's open door, Ballou said.
"We felt closed in," Warden said. "There was me, a 10 year old and a nine year old and a blind woman with her dog. How dangerous did we look? They did everything short of calling in the SWAT and spreading us out on the ground like an episode of COPS."
Her oldest child, age 10, has cerebral palsy and said the incident has had a negative impact on her trust in the police and how disabled people are treated.
Warden, who said the police have been called before because of her mother's guide dog, said this is the first time they were treated this way. All the other times the police said they were allowed to stay, she said.
"They didn't do anything but make us the victim," she said about the police.
Warden said her husband is being stationed at Fort Hood, but after this incident, said her family will look for a place to live in Belton or Harker Heights.
#4 May 29, 2009
"We weren't impressed at all with the attitude the people in Copperas Cove have, especially the police department," Warden said. "If we're not living on base we need to know we can rely on the police department, and that was a big no."
Now Ballou, an advocate for the blind, is searching every avenue available to her to make sure this does not happen again. She said she is afraid this incident has labeled her as a troublemaker by everyone who saw the incident.
"Everyone who drove by and saw me and my very identifiable dog doesn't know what happened," she said. "In a way, I was slandered across the community as a troublemaker. I'm very vocal about what happened because I want the public to know the laws that protect my civil rights were not protected by the police department or Taco Bell."
Ballou contacted the police department several times to speak with Police Chief Tim Molnes, but said he wouldn't return phone calls. Another officer did eventually speak with her and take a report filling official charges against the Taco Bell manager for non-access. Ballou said she could have also pressed charges for interfering with a service animal's job and for harassment, but has not.
She then contacted the district attorney's office where an assistant told her this is a civil manner and they don't handle those cases. She told them it is not a civil manner and she said he repeated several times "we're not going there" and then hung up.
She has also called City Attorney Charles Zech and left a message, but has not heard back from him.
"Everyone at the city has shut me off," she said. "They are afraid I might sue. I don't like to fight. If the police chief had made them apologize, I probably would have dropped all of this."
She said she just wants to see the laws enforced. She also said there are grants available through the ADA civil rights section of the United States Justice Department for entities to have someone come in and teach them ADA laws.
City Manager Andrea Gardner said "The City's policy is not to comment on ongoing investigative matters" and would not answer questions about the city's ADA training or this incident.
Lt. Danny Austin said the file on this case is still open and could not release information without an open records request. The request was sent to the Copperas Cove Police Department earlier this week. The file has not yet been received. The May 7 police blotter has no report of an incident at Taco Bell.
Taco Bell representative Don Barton has also been contacted by the Leader-Press office about the incident. He said he would send a prepared statement by e-mail. The statement was not received by press time.
Texas law on service animals states any violations of a person's right to use a guide dog is guilty of a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of not less than $300 or more than $1,000.
"They know they stepped over the line," Ballou said. "They are just hoping it will go away."
#5 May 29, 2009
Wow it took six police officers and three cop cars to get this women to leave the restaurant. What efficiency. I can smell a law suit comming.
#6 May 29, 2009
I posted the basics on this in "Another Cove Screwup". Basically, Cove PD screwed up.
They could be very liable in a lawsuit.
I imagine Ms. Gardner is jumping through her skirts down at City Hall after the L-P article today. She better make sure our new city attorney covers all bases on this one.
Taco Bell could also be sued.
Everyone is stating they'll provide a statement, but none has been received. Sounds like they're hoping it will go away.
#7 May 29, 2009
I think this is a tragedy. I know the feeling about Cove PD. I was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. They said I almost caused an accident. They said didn't you see that other car. I said there was no other car and I had a green light. I said if there was another car they would of honked or I would of saw the head lights of a car. There was nothing. They gave me a sobriety test which I did everything correctly, but I was nervous and shaking cause I am like that. They searched my truck and found nothing and arrested me anyway. They tested me some more at the station. Then I took a breathalyzer test. I did it three times and it was all zeros. Then they still finger printed and sent me on my way. Cove PD abuse there power that they are given and treat people bad. I am not saying all of them do, but several of them do. I hope she sues everybody and wins. Cove PD and Taco Bell needs to be knowledgeable of the law.
#8 May 29, 2009
Many in CCPD, and law enforcement in general, have zero people skills. I have seen in it done to others and had it done to myself here in Copperas Cove. Hid behind the saying, "our life is on the line daily," if you want to; but if you cant tell difference between your life being on the line and the need for compassion and being human to someone then its probably not the profession for you.
#9 May 29, 2009
This is all this police department is good for - harassing defenseless people and issuing tickets on 190.
They can't seem to stop the lucrative drug trade on Sunset.
They're a bunch of power hungry "Wyatt Earps". And I can see where they get it from - the Police Chief is a spineless weasle and he gets it from his boss, the city manager.
Big time lawsuit could be coming. Better plan for your taxes to go up significantly to pay for their mess.
#10 May 29, 2009
Sounds about par for the course for small town cops.There probably not required to attend an accademy for training.I recieved a ticket for going 9MPH over due to a speedometer error that Ford validated.My ticket was dismissed only after arguing with the judge,an ELECTED J.P.,who thought 74 in a 65 was 20 MPH over the speed limit.What a DOPE!!! You don't have to be educated to be a Judge,just elected.Wonder how many people get a raw deal because of that!!!!! This also happend in another small town/county of the same name,which has no money,which is a matter of public record.When there is only one town in the county so to speak,they will do anything to boost revenue,even if it means bogus charges.I'm sure CCPD and city hall will try to do whatever they can to avoid payment.Usually you have to get permission to sue a city government,from the city government.Go figure?
#11 May 29, 2009
Now that we have heard her side of the story it would be nice to hear the other side. It sounds to me that she is a trouble maker. I bet when it all comes out she provoked the situation with a BIG MOUTH. Because she is connected with the Army and the Army Cuddles and pampers it's dependants she thinks she can intimidate the local civilian community and make them do what she wants.
#12 May 29, 2009
If you knew the speedometer was off why didn't you compensate for the difference. Never your fault always someone else's.
#13 May 29, 2009
Whast do you want them to do tell everyone don't do that again?
#14 May 29, 2009
They are welcome to go anyplace they want to live if they don't like it here. Bye !!
#15 May 29, 2009
I have a feeling that there is more to this story than we have heard. Not taking up for the cops but this lady may be a mouther. Will see what the outcome may be. I have heard of stuff like this years ago and it wasn't near as bad as was first told to the public.
#16 May 29, 2009
Shooooooooooooot naw pistol whip everyone for even the slightest infractions of the law. Some how I dont beleive that a woman with guide dog and her grandchildren constitutes 6 officer swarm of CCPD ofiicers, beligerant or not. CCPD is known for rolling in packs, like a gang,(possibly due to young and inexperienced officers) and driving with lights and sirens to any type of call ask KPD and TPD if they put the public's safety at risk by driving with lights and sirens as much as CCPD does. Back to the subject, Peace Officers are given latitude when dealing with minor infractions and violations and this is where knowing the difference between emergent, nonemergent and being human comes into play. Murder, rape, talking on the cell phone while driving beat'em to a pulp.
#17 May 29, 2009
I have no sypathy for people who don't listen or break the law. If you do break the law keep it low keyed until your day in court.
#18 May 29, 2009
you my friend sound like an idiot!!!
#19 May 30, 2009
And apparantly no sympathy for the blind. Exactly what law did she break by having a guide dog in Taco Bell? And if there is no law against it, then she should'nt have been told to leave. She was the one within her rights and the Taco Bell Mgr and CCPD should've been the ones listening.
#20 May 30, 2009
I would like to tell another story about Cove PD which was in the paper. I was in the shower and I had the stereo on. It is like 12pm in the afternoon. All of a sudden my power went off. I went into the garage and saw my power switch was off. A cop was knocking on my front door. I got dressed and went outside, but the cop was across the street a couple of houses up. I said what is the problem officer. He told me my music was to loud and that this lady had called. I asked him did you come into my garage and turn my power off and he said yes. I said what gave you the right to come into my garage to turn my power off. He said you didn't answer the door so I went into your garage to turn it off. I said you had no right doing that and you could of damaged my computer or erase stuff on my computer. The lady said she could hear the music all the way in her back room where her baby is and was vibrating. I said I have never had no complaints and I have been living here for a few years. I was pissed. I went to the police station and filed a complaint and talked with someone. He said they would reimburse me if there was any damage. A few days later a gave a letter to the Leader Press. A few days later after that I got a call from Mr. Alexander city manager. He said the officer was wrong and someone did talk to him. Still that was messed up. These officers think they are above the law and can do whatever they want. It's always been that way.
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