The news is out: [A 46-year-old black man in Georgia who claims police officers used excessive force while wrongfully arresting him has sued the Valdosta Police Department.
Antonio Arnelo Smith is suing the department for $700,000 after a city police officer grappled him from behind and slammed him to the ground. Officers said they were “investigating suspicious activity” and mistook Mr Smith as a suspect.
The lawsuit also demands a jury trial.
According to the Valdosta Daily Times, the lawsuit names Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson, members of the city council, the city’s Police Chief Leslie Manahan and three officers involved in the arrest as defendants.
Officers were responding to a report of panhandling outside a pharmacy. According to the lawsuit, officers responding to the call made contact with a man near the pharmacy and ran his information. They found the man had an outstanding warrant and arrested him.
Once that man was in custody, the officer told a colleague – who had just arrived – to search near the pharmacy for another man who had allegedly been asking customers for money. The officer wanted to find the man to see if the pharmacy wanted to bring trespassing charges against him.
Despite not having a description of the man, the officer went searching for a suspect, and found Mr Smith walking nearby.
Bodycam footage, acquired by the Valdosta Daily Times, provided insight into the incident.
On the video, an officer approaches Mr Smith claiming he was investigating “suspicious activity” related to the pharmacy. Mr Smith defends himself, explaining that while he had been in the pharmacy, he was waiting for his sister to wire him money. Mr Smith insists that he is innocent, that the staff at the pharmacy know who he is and that nearby security cameras would prove he hadn’t done anything illegal.
The officer asks for identification and Mr Smith hands over his ID. As the exchange is taking place, another officer approaches Mr Smith from behind and grabs his arm. As Mr Smith reacts, the officer puts him in a bear hug. Mr Smith cries out that he hasn’t done anything and the officer holding him tells him to put his arms behind his back. After the third time asking Mr Smith to do so, the officer body slams Mr Smith face-first into the ground. Mr Smith’s arm breaks as a result, and the police handcuff him.
Once the police realise Mr Smith has been injured – he cries from pain in the video – the officers take the handcuffs off. The officers then realize that the suspect they were searching for had already been arrested, and that they’d attacked Mr Smith in error.]
$700,000 lawsuit? Get another lawyer.