San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas


A San Marcos police officer could face up to life in prison for allegedly injuring a young woman by slamming her to the ground on May 29 in the course of arresting her on trumped up charges.



Cpl. James Palermo, 40, was arrested on Tuesday and booked in the Hays County jail on a charge of aggravated assault by a public servant, a first degree felony punishable by five years to life in prison. On paid administrative leave since June 10, Palermo faces ”indefinite suspension” without pay following an internal investigation and a disciplinary hearing expected to be conducted next week, Chief Howard E. Williams told the Mercury this evening.

”I won’t prejudge the [internal] investigation. I have not heard what the officer has to say yet and I’ll reserve judgement until that happens,” Williams said. ”But there are standards and I think it’s fairly obvious what we think about his conduct that night in that we were the ones that went down and filed the criminal charges. … I believe what he did was criminal.”

While conducting a traffic stop in the parking lot of the Rooftop on the Square bar at 126 S. Guadalupe St. about 1:10 a.m. May 29, Palermo accosted 22-year-old Alexis Alpha as she walked by minding her own business, according to an affidavit used to secure an arrest warrant filed by San Marcos police Cmdr. Penny Dunn.

”Ms. Alpha made no contact with either the driver or Cpl. Palermo. She did not look at them as she walked by and made no suspicious movements, gestures or comments that would indicate she was anything more than a passerby [and] appeared unaware of the actions of either the driver or Cpl. Palermo,” according to Dunn’s account of the incident composed after watching dashboard video footage of the encounter and interviewing witnesses.

After being asked for identification, Alpha insisted she had done nothing wrong, told Palermo that he was obviously having a bad day and called him a “dick.”

At that point, Palermo grabbed Alpha and pushed her against the back of the Toyota Prius he had stopped then slammed her face-first on the concrete driveway and sat on her back. After she was treated at Central Texas Medical Center for injuries that included loss of two teeth and a concussion, Palermo took her to jail and charged her with obstruction, a third-degree felony; resisting arrest, a Class A misdemeanor; and public intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor.

Alpha was not guilty of any of those crimes, Dunn said, concluding, ”Cpl. Palermo had no reason to detain Ms. Alpha nor did he ever develop probable cause to arrest her for any offense.” Charges against Alpha have not  been dropped, according to Hays County court records, and she is scheduled to be arraigned before County Court at Law Judge Robert Updegrove on Aug. 2.

Her injuries will likely require further treatment including possible surgeries, Dunn’s account states.

Palermo was hired as a street officer in January 2000 and promoted to corporal in 2011 through a civil service system that determines promotions by performance on a written test. If Williams decides to  suspend Palermo indefinitely without pay, the officer can appeal to either the city’s Civil Service Commission, a district court or a third-party arbitrator. His employment would not be terminated, technically, until he has exhausted all avenues for appeals, Williams said.

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» San Marcos police Cmdr. Penny Dunn affidavit in police brutality case by San Marcos Mercury

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58 thoughts on “San Marcos cop faces felony rap for assaulting woman during illegal arrest

  1. What a piece of human garbage. While wearing the badge, he viciously assaults a 100 lb. 22 year old lady FOR NO REASON. Thank goodness there is some accountability in SMPD instead of a cover up. Even hardened felons don’t like thugs who commit acts of violence against women and children. Where is Marcellus Wallace with his pliers/blowtorch when you need him?

  2. Is this the same officer who pushed a girl over a planter, awhile back?

    And I thought the “just a dog” guy was bad. If these reports are accurate, this is despicable and embarrassing, almost beyond words.

  3. I am a sm resident with two businesses in town. One evening this officer approached me at my business, it was the most unprofessional interaction I have ever had with law enforcement. He detained me without reason, the only reason I was let go is because my brother immediately called the city manager who was able to help us even at 9 pm on a weekend night. An elected city official was also there on the scene who was also incredibly helpful. I would stand up and speak against this officer any day. Unprofessional, inappropriate, down right scary there are officers in SMTX like this!

  4. This is a good time to look at the power of the police union and how it insulates and protects rogue cops in San Marcos, Kyle and Hays County. Not to mention that the civil service system mandates promotion of good test-takers who aren’t necessarily good leaders. I am proud of Chief Williams and Cmdr. Dunn for not mincing words or soft-pedaling what this guy is accused of doing. I know many honest and decent San Marcos and Hays County law enforcement officers who don’t deserve to be tainted by this sort of thing any more than this poor girl deserved to be brutalized and then charged with a felony.

  5. This isn’t surprising at all. Most of the cops here ARE dicks (oh I could name so many) — a bunch of self-important gossips suffering little-man complexes who, unfortunately for the citizenry, have authority over us with their guns and badges.
    Can’t wait to see the dash-cam video on this.

  6. This guy is a fucking scum bag… I’m glad he finally got what was coming to him… He has been doing shit like this ever since I’ve lived in San Marcos (and probably before) Lock him up and throw away the key

  7. She will likely have this arrest on her record forever. Not on county and state records, those can be expunged for a price. But this will not be erased from her federal record and she will have to answer for this if she ever applies for a job that conducts federal background checks. Plus her booking photo will remain on websites such as unless she shells out more cash to have them removed. All because of one terrible excuse for a police officer. What about her bail? Will she be reimbursed for that? She should be. I commend the chief for the way this has been handled thus far. It would be a massive cover up if it happened in San Antonio.

  8. Probation is unacceptable. This piece of human garbage needs to serve time and there needs to be a thorough review of the entire San Marcos police force.

  9. Walking by not making eye contact with the officer, not making eye contact with the person being investigated, then just being snatched up while minding her own business thrown on the ground, teeth knocked out…..yea right

  10. I believe Chief Williams WOULD have “minced-words” and “soft-pedaled” this incident if it had not been for the work of Cmdr Dunn. There have been too many incidents of over-reaching by several San Marcos cops that have been excused or ignored by this police chief.
    Will the Mercury publish the dash cam video?

  11. According to the Kyle police chief it’s very easy for a police officer to misrepresent an incident or witness statement either through misrepresentation or exaggeration. There is nothing that can be done about this almost 100% of the time since its the officers “opinion”. Unfortunately that opinion carries a great deal if weight- luckily for this innocent girl the truth came out.

  12. Look at all the excuses. They did what they were supposed to do. Members of that department turned both of those guys in. Unions insulating these types of officers? Get real. It was union members that turned them in. If anything it shows a high caliber of people that do work in that department. Yeah let’s investigate them it’ll show they take care of bad cops. So let’s waste a lot more money. Wait I forgot jump on the cop hater bandwagon everybody’s doing it I got to get on to.

  13. I’m sure her award from the sure-to-be-filed lawsuit will more than cover the cost of having her record expunged, removal of mug shot, etc….

  14. i have mixed emotions about this. some of you dont know this officer and are playing this with high emotions. i believe watcher is right it would of been swept by the chief, just like when those officers shot that little mexican boy on gravel street and the man that surrender at conco. if in fact this officer did what he did he deserves what he gets. but i dont know this guy like that. then you have to put in a count college students in front of there friends acting like their ends dont stink! come on people! there is far worse stuff the pd is doing not all of them. but quite a few. i say change should be in order! start with the Chief and work your way down.too much bull from the chief has gone on. like the road rage with the officer. mum is the word right mr. williams.

  15. Mug shot will be there forever. Even if you pay them all they do is put a transparent B! over it. Yes I was stupid enough to pay ….

  16. I think most of us could easily google her name and find her mugshot; I certainly did before making my previous post. But I elected not to post the link because it would be a bit ironic remark on what a shame this situation is, and then post her pic for everyone to see. She has been wronged enough already and at this point certainly deserves more respect than that.

  17. I can completely understand the outrage given the way the media has already tried & convicted this officer. I only hope ALL the facts are presented during the trial. That being said, have any of you been in the downtown San Marcos area between the hours of midnight and 2am during graduation, finals week or any given night? If you haven’t, you need to go see for yourself exactly what goes on down there. Usually, there are hundreds of drunk college kids wandering about, crossing streets against the lights, falling down, throwing up, urinating in the alleys, having sex on car hoods, yelling obscenities at everyone including the people who have been charged with keeping them safe. I’m sure their parents would be very proud. Whenever the officers see someone breaking the law they have to approach them and investigate the occurrence. When this happens a crowd immediately forms and out come the cell phones videoing & snapping pics of what’s going on. They usually yell out the standard obnoxious platitudes that the police have become accustom to hearing and do whatever they can to obstruct the investigation. Most police officers will attempt to move the investigation to another location, however, that is not always possible. In this case the young woman was drunk, wandered into an investigation of a DWI traffic stop, when she was told to leave the area, she called the officer a ‘dick’ and that’s probably where everything went bad. The officer attempted to detain her, she resisted, the rest is as they say is history. Every story has 2 sides, I hope ALL the facts are revealed and justice is done.

  18. not surprizing! San Marcos Police as well as Hays Co. Judges/ D.A. etc have a long way to go before it can be said that they ‘uphold the law’ MANY of them have previous ‘allegations’ yet no convictions.!.

  19. Robynn- Did you even bother to read the attached Affidavit written by, and sworn upon, by Cmdr. Penny Dunn?

    Perhaps if you had, you wouldn’t have stated, “In this case the young woman was drunk, wandered into an investigation of a DWI traffic stop, when she was told to leave the area, she called the officer a ‘dick’ and that’s probably where everything went bad. The officer attempted to detain her, she resisted, the rest is as they say is history. Every story has 2 sides, I hope ALL the facts are revealed and justice is done.”

    Those ARE the facts. Read before you comment. You look ridiculous now.

  20. And what about the driver of the prius? he/ she didnt go to police then or come foward now as a witness?

  21. I know of Hays county first hand and denied Protective Order. Not enough probable cause or evidence. Strangulation is a Felony and if it would have taken place in Travis County my now ex husband would have been charged. Hays Police Officer had written that basically my home was to clean. I did end up getting a 2 year Protective Order from Travis County.

  22. Chase – PC affidavits, in a perfect world, are supposed state the facts of the case & facts that meet the elements of the offense. However, an individual can embellish it to sound worse or articulate in such a manner as to make it appear that it meets the elements of the offense. Please note the officer has not been indicted. The Cmdr wrote the PC Affidavit to get the arrest warrant. Also note, the charges against the young woman have not been dropped and she is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 2nd. Should be a media circus, also you may want to pay a visit to Ms Alpha’s Facebook page, you’d think she just won the lottery.

  23. Mary – the guy in the Prius was the reason the officer was there. He was driving while intoxicated, Officer Palermo was trying to complete a field sobriety test when the young woman walk through during the test.

  24. @ Mr. Chochran…she WAS drunk…he WAS on a DWI investigation. Drunk people flail around easily, stumble, fall, and have poor coordination. I am not saying the situation was handled in the best manner but I see both sides having responsibility. Young people in this day and age have very little respect for their elders, parents, etc., much less any respect for authority figures…most of the college kids I have had the displeasure of interacting with in the SM area are rude, have no sense of responsibility or ownership in this community and feel an unrealistic sense of entitlement. I want to know where it all went wrong with the young adults in this society. Is it because your parents tried to be your friend, giving you everything you wanted rather than making you earn it or instead of whipping your asses now and then (which most deserve) they put you in ‘time out’?

    She called him a ‘dick’ – that should make her parents really proud and that is exactly how a ‘devout Christian’ young lady should behave, not to mention she was out embibing downtown that evening.

    Maybe you shouldn’t run your mouth when you don’t know all the facts of the case. Disclaimer: You can’t believe everything the news reports- half of it is fiction and the other half is mostly filer and embellishment. Another thing to educate you, a Probable Cause Affidavit is the bear bones of a case- it does not get into any of the particulars and is basically one’s opinion of the facts. This was just for an arrest warrant and has not even gone to the grand jury yet…as Robynn said most of the college age ‘children’ in this town behave like immature animals downtown when they have been out partying and I am sure the police are just as tired of it as most if the law abiding citizens of this community are tired of it!

    Bottom line he deserves his fair day in court just like anyone else…

  25. you are right Robynn.. 40k students and San Marcos is asleep.. this is b.s. this officer is not that way. i for one will stand his side and i would like to know when his court date is..

  26. Robynn and Bob – I’m no genius, but your comments don’t make any sense. We ASSUME she walked through the field sobriety test. That does not give a cop freedom to viciously assault an innocent woman and rage against the public. Bob, if you are willing to stand by his side, please post your full name so you can publicly support him. Btw, not sure what standing by his side has to do with anything. Character evidence is inadmissible to establish guilt and it’s probably to Fool-lermo’s benefit. I think he would rather keep out all of the testimony from people who have seen him go nuts (like some of the folks who have posted here) than some idiot friend who has only seen him at the Cibolo Wal-Mart on Saturdays.

  27. There was a time when the Police were good public servants in this city. I have not seen the camera footage but if this holds true then every cop in town will carry this black mark. Sad but true.

  28. Some people think it’s cool to hate cops, all cops. News Bulletin: Nobody despises a rogue cop more than cops. The bad apples in any profession get all the headlines and influence the public mind set more than all the good done by everyone else. There are a lot of people on the street willing to knock your teeth out, and when someone has to pull that creep off you it will probably be one of the good cops. I believe that Williams, Dunn, and Judge Updegrove will make sure this is handled right. For you anonymous posters my name is Huddleston.

  29. When we decided to create an entertainment district in a college town we had to know what we were getting into. And personally, it seems to be the best option we have. At least we have mostly responsible bar owners who will stop serving people before they get alcohol poisoning. A crowd downtown is easier to manage than a couple of hundred roving house parties. As far as I am concerned, the police should keep them from fighting each other, keep them from tearing stuff up, keep them out of traffic, and keep them from getting behind the wheel.

    What really pisses me off about incidents like this is who is paying for her medical bills? Not the guy who did it but the taxpaying citizens of San Marcos.

    I have to admit that life in prison seems a little harsh for this. But the fact that criminal charges were filed at all speaks volumes to me. The usual way to handle these matters is to quietly fire them. I’ll wait for the whole story to come out in court but I can help but think there is more to this story than we are being told.

  30. Robyn, Get your facts straight? So you work on the inside? DO you know something we do not? You are WRONG. God, the facebook page isn’t even her! This is beyond excusable. I am glad someone is willing to get to the bottom of it when more often than not they do not. It proves to be embarrassing to the city of San Marcos. Move your kids here! (We have plenty of cash that was funded to us that we need to use to charge them with a crime.) “We’d LOVE your company.” Yall forgot to mention the man who was arrested for saving the other mans life at the falls, the guy who was a mental patient shot dead after a stand off and no other means were used or authorities or experts called? Or the alleged cheating so many do on their wives and take it out on the ones who know about it. Oops did I say that? Dang fingers.

  31. United Nations has declared America a police state. Very sorry this innocent young woman had to experience this brutality and trauma. My husband won his court case this week in Hays after two years of fighting overcharges, police corruption etc. Very important that everyone in the community reminds law enforcement that they work for the public. How many more lawsuits does our community have to pay for due to deaths in our jail, medical negligence in our jail, police violence etc. Very sad.

  32. I am very glad that the police are trying to do the right thing…something that is rarely done these days!

    ***Henry Thoreau***
    The video of the dancing girl is NOT the correct woman.

  33. Hells bells !!!….Texas cops are getting as nutty as California and New York cops Threw her on the ground, knocked out 2 of her teeth and she sustained a concussion. YIKES

    AT LEAST this guy’s commanding officer took the right steps when he found out about it. Bravo to him !

    I hope they find him guilty and he goes to prison. We don’t need cops like this guy. What a monster. What is going on when cops act like this? Is the stress just too much to handle are are they criminals to begin with ?
    Protect & Serve used to be the motto.

    If you know anybody with kids going to college in San Marcos better warn them if this cop gets away with it.

  34. I was falsely arrested by Palermo in 2010 in Comal county. I was pulled over and after he announced the agency he worked for, I questioned his jurisdiction. I was told to step out of the car, and informed that I was going to jail. After being arrested and charged with DWI, I then proceeded to win my ALR hearing and won the case, however, 2 years of my life were wrought with mental anguish, not to mention the financial burden of defending oneself in the Texas court system. After I won, I still had to pay to have the record of my arrest expuncted. This officer stole two years of my life and exposed me to public humiliation and great monetary expense. I can only hope that officer Palermo suffers as many sleepless nights, more financial loss than I have. As far as public humiliation, I’m not complaining.

  35. a, you are one of many and complaints similar to your complaints were well known by those in authority for a long time. While pleased that something was finally done, I find it interesting that it took this long and do not believe that Civil Sevice laws were the problem. The vast majority, and I mean vast, of officers are great people but this guy clearly was not. It would be interesting for you to post for others exactly how much this ordeal cost you so that government could understand how the actions of a errant police officer can cost others.

  36. $7,854.37 is what it cost to prove myself innocent, but the intangible costs were much greater. I lost all chances of career advancement. During the time period before I had my case records expuncted, I was regularly pulled over by other officers because “my license plate light was out.” It was functioning properly every time.

  37. lock the bastard up, and send a message to all violent cops that this kind of harassment is is unacceptable. Make the son’s of bitches pay for all the cost of extricating oneself from these unreasonable charges!
    If you innocent make the cop pay for your defense in court, that should slow down these bastards from abusing their office.
    Good cops out take these kind of slugs and beat the shit out of them!

  38. all the people at the ready to condemn an officer who serves his country, without any access to the variables surrounding the situation that happened make it obvious the power of the news media is way out of proportion, and have lost their journalistic integrity in reporting their opinion without knowing what an actual investigation would reveal here.

    It appears she was drunk and disorderly, not in control of her physical self, and in the process of being cuffed and arrested may have purposefully hit her teeth on the ground in order to do what she saw was an opportunity to pull off exactly what is happening here.

    a bunch of personal conjectures and opinions about a situation they have no idea about, other than what they have read.

    It has the stench of ” obama boy daddy trial “, condemnation without justification, none of you have any idea of what happened

  39. the words of penny dunn make it appear as if she does not like her associate to some extraordinary level of hate, amazing for an officer of the law

  40. Jackie sounds like you have done this before. Clever girl you are! Read the dang report Jackie. Are you stating there was no dash cam Jackie? Are you stating there was not a person driving the car that got pulled over? There were other witnesses to this. I am sure a drunk person would think, “Hey let me give myself a concussion and knock a few teeth out so I will be gorgeous!” Go play on the freeway bonehead.

  41. This is kind of an aside. But I keep looking at Palermo’s mug shot and I’m not sure what I see on his face.

    Is it arrogance? Shock? Fear? Defiance?

    It might be one of the greatest mug shots of all time.

  42. He has testified in the past that a reason that he was so “vigilant” my word, on DWI enforcement (an obvious attempt to sway the jury) was that his sister had been seriously injured by a drunk driver. When I questioned him at an administrative hearing he became very upset and would not answer and the administrative judge would not make him answer. It will be interesting to see if this and other stories he told can now be examined. The stories about Palermo are lnumerous and the answers he has given in past trials now deserve to be examined and see if innocent people were convicted. Fair is fair and fairness in a criminal proceeding ought to be the standard for all of us.

  43. All of my dealings with SMPD have left me feeling that we are served by a professional, competent police force. Not to say there aren’t bad apples. I’ll be the first to say that if Palermo is guilty, he absolutely needs to go to jail for what he did. Actions such as those alleged have no place in this country. I firmly believe, however, that he is an enigma and not representative of the entire department. I’ll reserve my judgements on him until all the facts are presented at trial, however. Good job, Chief Williams, for policing your police force and ensuring they are held to answer for their misdeeds.

  44. I see a few here saying that this officer deserves his day in court and that there are two sides to every story. True enough. Having said that, when one’s superior officers come out with such strong statements, it certainly appears that you have an officer that is a problem. One has to assume that his superiors viewed the dash-cam video, interviewed witnesses and drew the conclusions that they did. My father-in-law is a police officer. It is a difficult job for comparatively little pay. There are many good police officers that get tainted when an officer exceeds his authority or simply outright violates the law. Based on his arrest warrant and what has been stated by his superior officers, this guy doesn’t belong on the job.

  45. Does anyone else find it odd that this charge didn’t come from an indictment? Based on the timeline of events provided by Chief Williams, the Grand Jury would have met and the case could have been presented to them. Highly unusual it seems. If this was such an airtight slam-dunk case by the administration from San Marcos PD, why not present to the Grand Jury? Sounds to me like something is being hidden by the brass. Come to think of it, why wasn’t this investigated by an outside entity? Hays County, Texas Rangers, Attorney General’s Office, DPS, anybody but the Officer’s own agency. I don’t have all the information, or an insider, or know people who know people who heard something from a sister’s cousin’s boyfriend, but it sure smells fishy to me.

    Also, if this girl had not committed any of the offenses she was arrested for, as stated by Dunn, then why is she scheduled for court still? Why haven’t the charges been summarily dismissed or dropped? A little contradictory if you ask me.

    I’m not saying either party is guilty or innocent, but some things just don’t add up so far. This should be an interesting trial… If it actually makes it past the Grand Jury that is….

  46. Sounds like a case that should be prosecuted Federally under Title 18 Sec 242 USC.

    Section 242 of Title 18 makes it a crime for a person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

    The offense is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.

    It may even be possible for this violation to be on top of whatever conviction he gets in state court. It sounds like he may have had this coming for a long time.

  47. Bystander, it looks like one of your questions (and a question raised by a couple others) has been answered. The charges against the girl have been dropped.

  48. The way people excuse police brutality in this thread is pretty laughable. Are you people really so devoutly anti-student that you’re willing to find an excuse for this beating?

  49. I find it highly disturbing that so many people are blindly defending this man that assaulted a woman simply because he is a police officer. There are many great police officers out there yes, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t officers that totally abuse their authority. It is obvious that his superiors reviewed the video footage and interviewed witnesses to determine what happened. Police brutality is something that must be dealt with promptly and severely. This sort of abuse of power completely undermines our justice system. There are bad apples and this man certainly seems to be one of them.

  50. I believe most cops are good. From my experience, Cpl. James Palermo is not one of the good ones. A few years ago, I watched him taze a teenager in Sewell Park, which was necessary because the teenager, who had assaulted a store clerk, was running from Palermo. The kid immediately went down. He was unable to move and posed absolutely no threat to anyone. He was less than 30 feet from me. Officer Palermo ran to the immobilized kid and viciously and violently stomped on the teenager’s head.
    Later that same day, I made an unofficial complaint, which I regret now. I should’ve stepped up with an official complaint against Palermo, but because I instinctively trust the police, I erroneously gave Palermo the benefit of the doubt.
    I agree that he deserves his day in court. But I also believe that he is a bad cop. At the very least he needs psychological help and he probably should spend some time behind bars.

  51. I love all these idiots trying to defend the actions of an idiot officer. Most of you are most likely related to a cop. Most cops are dicks. So your husband, wife, brother, son… Whoever you know that is a cop is most likely a dick idiot. This guy deserves life but we all know the da will defiantly cut a plea bargain and the guy is gonna get paper work and a lesser charge.

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