Stephen Hasner | News | August 1, 2020
According to a report by CCN, Antonio Smith of Valdosta, Georgia, is suing the city and several police officers from the Valdosta Police Department following his arrest in February 2020. He is alleging that police officers violated his civil rights and that the police officers used excessive force.
Mr. Smith told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he was waiting for his sister in Florida to send him money. He said that he had done nothing wrong and had told the police officers to call his sister to confirm what he was telling them.
However, that did not stop the situation from escalating and resulting in Mr. Smith sustaining a broken wrist. Mr. Smith’s attorney said that he faults the second officer at the scene for causing the situation to escalate into physical violence.
Police Body Cameras Caught the Incident on Video
The Valdosta Police Department released a video of the incident from one of the officers’ body cameras. Mr. Smith’s attorney sent the video from another officer’s body camera to CNN.
On February 8, 911 received a call from a Walgreens employee claiming that someone was asking customers for money. When police arrived, a customer told an officer that the man in question had walked down the street.
Mr. Smith was down the street at that time. An officer approached Mr. Smith and asked him for his identification. Mr. Smith was complying with the officer’s request and having a normal conversation with the officer.
Mr. Smith’s attorney describes the incident as the officer coming up behind Mr. Smith, putting him in a bear hug, and telling Mr. Smith to put his hands behind his back. However, the way that the officer was holding Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith could not put his hands behind his back.
The officer then slams Mr. Smith to the ground and breaks Mr. Smith’s wrist in the process. Mr. Smith cried out and stated to officers that his wrist was broken. Mr. Smith continued to cry out that he was in pain.
An officer can be heard saying that “This is the other guy.” It appears that another individual with felony warrants was nearby and the officer who slammed Mr. Smith into the ground mistook Mr. Smith for the man with the felony warrants.
Valdosta Police Department Releases a Statement
According to information provided by the Valdosta Police Department, they were responding to the call from Walgreens. The description of the person allegedly harassing Walgreens customers was an African American male wearing blue pants and a brown hoodie.
In a statement, the police department states that the officer thought Mr. Smith was the subject of the 911 call who had felony warrants in the area. Mr. Smith pulled his arms forward and tensed when the officer told him to put his hands behind his back.
The officer then used a physical control technique intended to put the subject on the ground to be handcuffed. The officer requested emergency medical services and removed the handcuffs when he realized Mr. Smith sustained an injury.
In a statement to CNN affiliate WALB, Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan said that it is unfortunate when there is miscommunication during radio traffic. He claims that the officers had the correct person that was the subject of the Walgreens call, but “it’s just unfortunate he was not the one with the felony warrants.”
Allegations of Police Brutality are Not New
Even though there are calls for police reform and a great deal of attention is given to incidents of excessive force and police brutality, the problems are not new. Allegations of excessive force by police officers and police brutality are common. Police departments in Atlanta and throughout Georgia often justify their use of force.
However, these matters should not be swept under the rug. They should be tried in court.
Individuals who have been injured or had their civil rights violated can seek compensation for their injuries and damages in a civil action. Lawsuits against police departments, cities, and officers may include allegations of:
- False arrests
- False imprisonment
- Wrongful death
- Sexual misconduct
- Physical threats
- Emotional abuse
- Lethal force
Law enforcement officers who break the law can and should be held accountable for their actions. Police officers have the duty of protecting and serving the community. If an officer uses excessive force, that officer can be held accountable in civil and criminal court.
How Do I File a Police Brutality Complaint?
Suing a government entity is a complex legal process.
Most government entities have immunity from lawsuits. Immunity protects government entities, including police departments, from being held liable for damages in a civil lawsuit. Police officers have qualified immunity that protects them from lawsuits for actions they take while acting in their capacity as a law enforcement officer.
However, these immunities do not protect cities and police officers from all civil lawsuits. There are exceptions. A police brutality lawyer can review your case to determine if what happened to you qualifies as an exception to the immunity rules.