Disabled veteran kicked out of store, told to go occupy Wall Street

Reuters/Marco Garcia
A disabled war veteran faced verbal abuse when he entered a mattress store in San Antonio. The vet was told to “go occupy Wall Street” and subsequently kicked out of the store because he brought his leashed service dog with him.

The 70 percent disabled veteran, Adan Gallegos, is now suing Billy Bob’s Beds in the San Antonio Federal Court. He claims civil rights violations and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Texas Human Resources Code, Courthouse News reports.

The complaint states that Gallegos entered the mattress store with a family member and his dog Bootz, who was leashed and well behaved. The dog was wearing an identifying service-dog vest and did not jump on any furniture.

 The store president, William Gholson, allegedly kicked the man and his dog out of the store, claiming, “no one could make him do anything in his own building.”

Gallegos described the need for his service animal, but Gholson made him leave anyway.

“Store employees continued the harassment and ridicule after Mr. Gallegos left the building,” the complaint states. The store president called the police on the veteran, while employees followed him outside and told him to remove his Wounded Warrior clothing and “go occupy Wall Street.”

Under the law, US service dogs are allowed to be in “placed of public accommodation”, which includes retail establishments like stores or restaurants.

Service dogs are specially trained to aid a person with a disability other than sight or hearing. Gallegos is rated 70 percent disabled and suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He fought for the US Army in Iraq, aiding in the capture of Saddam Hussain.

His severe case of PTSD comes as a result of “intense combat” and “the explosion of an IED,” the complaint states.

“The tasks performed by Bootz are directly related to Mr. Gallegos’ disability and include monitoring Mr. Gallegos’ behavior and alerting if Mr. Gallegos appears to be highly stressed or shows signs of a panic attack,” the lawsuit says.

Other tasks the dog is responsible for include waking the vet up when he has nightmares, reminding him to take his medication and warn him if someone is approaching him from behind.

Recently, another disabled veteran and his service dog were allegedly abused by United Airlines staff. Jim Stanek, who suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury, says his dog was kicked in the ribs and he was called “retarded” by airline staff.

Gallegos’ case will be argued in the San Antonio Federal Court, with Denette Vaughn from Disability Rights Texas as his attorney.