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Federal civil rights lawsuit filed against Amarillo officers by parents of drowning victim

7-year-old Alexis Wartena drowned in an Amarillo lake 1 year ago. Her parents are now suing 3 Amarillo police officers. (Photo: Amarillo Police Department)

The parents of 7-year-old Alexis Wartena, who drowned in an Amarillo lake last year, are suing three Amarillo police officers.

Michael Wartena and Michael Tiffany Stewart are accusing Amarillo police officers of mentally torturing them and wrongly accusing them of murder. They also said the officers prevented them for searching for their daughter, Alexis, who was autistic.

Alexis went missing from the La Kiva Hotel on July 19, 2016. She was found submerged in the lake near the hotel the next day. Autopsy results showed she had drowned. Her parents said Alexis' drowning was an accident.

Now, exactly one year after Alexis went missing, the family's attorney, Jesse Quackenbush, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against three of the officers who were involved in the investigation of Alexis' disappearance.

“The family is still agonizing with the loss of their daughter and they’re also agonizing with the reality that they were prevented from searching for her, "Quackenbush said. "That’s something that causes them pain on a daily basis.”

Shortly after Alexis' parents were detained for questioning, their other children were taken by Child Protective Services. Those children were returned to the parents after Quackenbush contacted APD and allegedly demanded the children be returned.

“The police pretty much suffered tunnel vision, accused them of murder and had their children taken away and never exercised an ounce of energy looking for their child," Quackenbush said.

Quackenbush claims "the whole situation could have been avoided had Amarillo Police Department invested the time and effort into training its first responders about the realities of autistic children and their known behavior when they go missing."

Full court documents:


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