A three-year ordeal involving police and one of El Paso's food icons officially ended on Monday when Carlos Diaz de Leon stood in front of El Paso City Hall flanked by two Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project lawyers.
Diaz de Leon, who was one of five men who filed a lawsuit against the City of El Paso and Chico's Tacos, among others three years ago, said he was relieved to announce a settlement with the City of El Paso over an incident that occurred at a Chico's Taco in June 2009.
According to Amin Alehashem, one of Diaz de Leon's lawyers, the lawsuit has been dismissed as the City has agreed to invest in annual training for their police officers about the application of the local discrimination statute pertaining to sexual orientation or gender identity. Alehashem also said the security company, Bradford All American Security, Inc., which works at Chico's Tacos has agreed to train its employees on sensitivity towards the LGBT community.
The five local men said they were harassed during a visit to Chico's Tacos on Montwood Avenue when two of the men in the group kissed. Diaz de Leon said he recalled a security guard inside the Chico's telling him and his friends in Spanish, "We won't allow you to do faggot things here."
In response he and the security guard called 911. When El Paso Police arrived they informed Diaz de Leon and his four friends that they could be arrested for "homosexual conduct," a statute declared unconstitutional six years earlier.
The El Paso Police Department later admitted the situation was not handled correctly, saying then rookie police officer Israel Rodriguez-Aceves made a mistake.
In 2009, El Paso Police Dept. Spokesman Sgt. Chris Mears told ABC-7, "We don't enforce that law. There's been court decisions about part of Texas' law on that. We don't enforce it, and what happened wouldn't even have met the elements of that law even it if was enforceable."
Fast-forward to 2012 and those involved in the dismissed case on the plaintiff's side say the community is seeing the end of a historic case. Alehashem compared the case to civil rights cases that took place decades ago.
Diaz de Leon said it's been a long road and he's happy it's over with.
"It's a step forward, not only for the gay community but the straight community as well," said Diaz de Leon.
As part of the case, Rodriguez-Aceves wrote an apology to the men involved in the incident this past December. That letter was released Monday which said, "I am writing you to state that I regret the way the situation was handled that evening. From this point on, as a police officer, I will enforce the city's anti-discrimination ordinance."
Alehashem said his client did not receive any money as part of the settlement with the City and with Chico's.