Ka'Mar Benbo: Oregon cops knelt on 12-year-old black boy's neck and almost choked him during arrest

The family of Ka'Mar Benbo has accused five Clackamas County sheriff's deputies of battery and sought $300,000 in damages

                            Ka'Mar Benbo: Oregon cops knelt on 12-year-old black boy's neck and almost choked him during arrest
(Kafoury and McDougal Law)

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, OREGON: Clackamas County Sheriff's deputies have been accused of police brutality after a civil lawsuit filed against them said one of them placed a knee on the neck of a 12-year-old African-American boy during an arrest last year.

Ka'Mar Benbo had been leaving the Clackamas Town Center mall with friends on August 5 when he was grabbed and taken to the ground by several deputies, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Clackamas County Circuit Court on June 17.

The deputies had been responding to a call from mall security about a fight involving a large group of juveniles who were physically assaulting a female juvenile, reported OPB TV. When the deputies arrived, they singled out Benbo, who was placed on the grass and then handcuffed.

"One officer elbowed [Benbo] in the face, officers forced [Benbo] face-first to the ground, and several officers held [Benbo] with one officer putting his knee on [Benbo’s] neck using his weight to pin the child to the ground," the lawsuit states. "The pressure made it difficult for Ka’Mar to breathe."

It also states that Benbo and others at the scene repeatedly told the deputies he was 12-years-old and highlighted a statement from a witness, who reported seeing a deputy arriving on the scene, exiting his vehicle, and then slapping what appeared to be a baton in his hand as he approached the group.

The day after the incident, Benbo's guardian made a complaint against the police, which triggered an internal investigation. However, one month later, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts wrote back to the guardian and said the investigation had found no wrongdoing on the part of the deputies.

"We formally interviewed employees, witnesses, reviewed reports, reviewed databases, reviewed video, and other relevant information," he wrote in the letter. "Based on the available evidence and totality of circumstances, the investigation has determined potential violations have received a disposition of ‘Exonerated'."

He also said his office had participated in a listening session that had been called for because of the incident that was coordinated by Rep Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley). 

But the case has come back to the limelight following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old truck driver who was filmed gasping 'I can't breathe' as Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

"What the world is seeing now, is what African-Americans have always known," Benbo’s attorney, Jason Kafoury, wrote in an email. "It didn’t start with a knee to the neck of George Floyd. The police here were aggressive and abusive to a 12-year-old child; that’s why if there is ever to be police reform, the time is now."

Last week, Roberts once again insisted there had been no wrongdoing from his deputies. "We do not train deputies to restrict a person’s airway or impede their ability to breathe," he said. "It was determined the involved deputies followed training and policy."

The lawsuit has accused Deputy Tyler Simpkins, Deputy Rob Watts, Deputy Thomas Broomfield, Deputy Clint Pierce, and Deputy Angela Church of battery and demanded $300,000 in damages.

Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote said he was not aware of the incident until recently and that his office was now investigating it. "We didn’t know about this until we saw it this morning," he said. "We’re looking into it."

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