Wrongly detained Black man sues Valdosta police for slamming him to the ground, breaking his wrist during arrest
A black man from Georgia is suing the Valdosta Police Department after saying that officers had used excessive force during his wrongful arrest. 46-year-old Antonio Arnelo Smith is suing the VPD for a sum of $700,000 after an officer tackled him from behind and then slammed him into the ground during a shocking incident in February.
Officers revealed that they were "investigating suspicious activity" and had mistaken Smith as suspect, Unilad reports. The lawsuit was filed on June 19 against the city of Valdosta, Georgia, and the Police Department.
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Smith is looking at getting compensation and punitive damages stating that his constitutional rights had been violated by unlawful detention, use of excessive force, false arrest and imprisonment. The Valdosta Daily Times says that the lawsuit names Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson, members from the city council, the city's Police Chief Leslie Manahan as well as three officers involved in the arrest as defendants.
According to Smith's attorney, Nathanial Haugabrook, shared that his client had broken his left wrist as a result of the incident and would require further treatment. The officers involved had reportedly been responding to a report of panhandling outside a Walgreens pharmacy. On February 8, 2020, the VPD was dispatched to the Walgreens at 2815 North Ashley Street in reference to a report of a male outside the business harassing customers, screaming loudly, and asking customers for money. The subject was reported to be an African American male wearing a brown hoodie and blue pants.
An officer was on the lookout for a suspect who had been allegedly heading south from the pharmacy. The officer saw Smith walking around approximately a 100 yards away. Smith had shared with the officer that he had been at a business up the road and was waiting for his sister to wire him some money. He added that there were security cameras there that could verify his story and also cooperated and complied with officers when he was asked to provide some form of identification.
In the bodycam footage one can see the officer leave his vehicle as he notices the man arguing with the police, he then, without warning grabbed Smith from behind and forcibly twisted his arm slamming him to the ground. The responding officer approached Smith and advised him to place his hands behind his back, police says that since 'the subject did not and began to resist by pulling his arms forward and tensing his body' there was some use of force. Clearly shocked by what had happened, Smith starts to cry and hyperventilate and says, "Oh my God! What are you doing? What are you doing? Jesus!" While officers slammed him to the ground and put him in handcuffs, Smith can be heard telling them that he was in pain and 'it hurts'.
In the bodycam footage, the police were also a bit confused after one of the officers confirmed that Smith did not have any warrants. Officers then noticed Smith's injury, removed his handcuffs, instructed him to roll over and requested an ambulance.
In a statement, the city of Valdosta stated, "The City of Valdosta and the Valdosta Police Department takes 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."
Haugabrook had called the incident a civil rights violation and said, "We will cross the next bridge as it comes and hopefully we get this matter solved in a manner that prevents these sort of mistakes, these sort of conducts from happening in the future," WALB News 10 reports.