An arbitrator has ruled that, despite the fact former Orange Police Department Capt. Robert Arnold shot and killed James Whitehead at point blank range in the parking of the O'Reilly Auto Parts store on 16th Street in Orange last year, he must be returned to the police force because the city violated Arnold's due process rights.
The ruling, which was issued today by LeRoy Bartman, has not yet been seen by city leaders or police department officials on Orange but Greg Cagle, who defended Arnold in the arbitration hearing said he was pleased with the decision.
"I think it was the correct decision to make," Cagle said. "He didn't reach the merits of the case just that the investigation violated his (Arnold's) due process rights."
A copy of Bartman's ruling states, "The grievant is exonerated on all charges. The city of Orange, Texas violated state and federal law when it deprived Capt. Arnold of his 'due process rights.' The indefinite suspension is reversed and the disciplinary reinstatement of Captain Arnold is so ordered. As to remedy, he will be restored to his position and made whole for all benefits and credits in accordance with Texas Local Government Code 143.053(f)."
Cagle said he was not sure at what capacity Arnold would be returned to the force but it must be commensurate with his rank of captain and that he cannot be demoted.
"They only have 180-days to take disciplinary actions," Cagle said.
Orange City Manager Shawn Oubre said the ruling comes as an "emotional" pivot for the entire city and the community. According to him, the Orange City Council and Mayor Brown Claybar will now confer with City Attorney John Cash Smith as to what legal options are available.
"It's not that I have nothing to say," Oubre said when asked about the ruling. "Right now, I just don't know what the legal situation is."
EDITOR'S NOTE: A copy of the complete ruling is attached above.
Orange County Editor Jennifer Johnson contributed to this report.