Antonio Smith, a 47-year-old Black man, has filed a $700,000 lawsuit against Valdosta, Georgia police for “unnecessary and excessive” use of force from his wrongful arrest that took place back in February.
According to the federal suit filed Friday (June 19), Smith claims that police officers injured him after body slamming him. He also states that his civil rights were violated when the officers mistook him for a suspect in a panhandling case. Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan, Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson, members of the Valdosta City Council, three Valdosta cops and one police sergeant are listed as defendants on the suit.
“Defendants’ actions, omissions and deliberate indifference to violations of clearly established constitutional rights caused Mr. Smith to suffer physical, mental and emotional injuries,” states the lawsuit, obtained by the Valdosta Daily Times. Smith’s arm was broken during the interaction with police and his lawyer says that he now has to receive physical therapy.
“From the moment Mr. Smith was slammed to the ground until he walked away, he cried and screamed in agonizing pain,” reads the suit. The city of Valdosta released a statement saying that they take “any report of any injury to a citizen seriously. Although there was no complaint filed with VPD, once the shift supervisor was notified, it prompted the review process of the incident by the officer’s supervisor, patrol bureau commander, Internal Affairs Division and chief of police.”
Back in February, officers responded to a call that someone had been panhandling outside of a pharmacy. Body cam footage shows police approach Smith and tell him that they are looking into “suspicious activity.” He tells officers that he was down the street waiting for his sister to wire him money at a local Western Union. The cops asked for identification and Smith complied.
A police sergeant then arrives on the scene and walks up to Smith and reportedly grabbed “his right wrist before reaching across his back and grabbing his left arm. He wraps his arms around him and instructs him to put his hands behind his back three times,” says the outlet. After the third time, the sergeant reportedly lifted the man and slammed him on the ground.
Smith can be heard telling officers, “I wasn’t doing anything.” After realizing that the victim sustained an injury, they asked him to calm down and removed the handcuffs. Officers were then informed that the suspect with the warrant that they were looking for was down the street. The sergeant then says, “I thought it was the one with the warrant.”
The officers then attempt to help Smith with his injury and told him that an ambulance was on the way. He refused medical attention, but later went to a hospital for assistance.
Watch the body cam footage below and tell us what you think.