VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - WALB News 10 has spoken with the plaintiff’s attorney and the Valdosta police chief about the $700,000 lawsuit that’s been filed against the City of Valdosta and its police department.
| More on the lawsuit: VPD, Valdosta named in excessive force lawsuit |
A man said officers used excessive force while taking him into custody back in February. His attorney is calling the incident a civil rights violation.
Read the full lawsuit below:
“We had the right person stopped, it’s just unfortunate the communication, when you got multiple officers on the same call, there is some miscommunications during radio traffic. Those are things that yes, we can work on that as an agency, and work to continue training our officers better and better communication skills with each other. We did have the right guy stopped that was causing the problem at Walgreens, it’s just unfortunate he was not the one with the felony warrants,” said Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan.
VPD released a summary of the incident on its Facebook page.
On February 8, police were dispatched to the 2800 block of North Ashley Street on a 911 call. They responded to a report of a man outside Walgreens harassing customers, screaming loudly and asking for money.
The caller described him as a black man wearing a brown hoodie and blue jeans.
When officers first arrived, they said no one was there, so they left.
Less than 30 minutes later, they were called again because the suspect had returned.
When they arrived the second time, they met a man fitting the description.
Police reported that they had learned after receiving his ID, he had felony warrants out of Cook County. In the meantime, a customer told another officer checking the west side of the building, a man was harassing her and asking for money.
The customer said he was walking south on Ashley street.
Police approached Antonio Smith, telling him he was being stopped for suspicious activity.
Smith said he was not involved in anything suspicious and was waiting for his sister to wire him money. The officer asked Smith for his ID.
Another responding officer was hearing all of this unfold over the radio and when he joined the scene where Mr. Smith was, he believed Smith was the other man with warrants.
In the video, you see the officer bear hug Smith from behind, then Smith is asked to put his arms behind his back, you then see the officer slam Smith to the ground.
The lawsuit said Smith was not asked to put his hands behind him before the officer grabbed him.
“He still thinks the subject has felony warrants. When you are dealing with someone with felony warrants, you kinda want to move quick, really for the safety of everyone involved,” said Chief Manahan.
In the video, you see the officers look confused after one officer confirmed Smith did not have warrants. They then took the handcuffs off of Smith and requested an ambulance.
Officers said Smith refused medical care but his lawsuit indicated his left wrist was fractured. Smith did go to South Georgia Medical Center later that day.
Smith was not arrested.
“Believe he reached out to us at the end of February, somewhere maybe in the middle of March, came into our office and sat where you are sitting and explained what had happened,” said Nathanial Haugabrook, Smith’s attorney.
Haugabrook, from there, requested all police records and body camera footage and decided to take the case. He said Smith had a fractured left wrist that is currently deformed and the only way to fix it would be with an orthopedic surgeon.
“It’s unfortunately a horrible situation on behalf of Valdosta P.D. and our officers. There was absolutely no malicious intent on this, just an unfortunate situation,” said Manahan.
“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,” said Haugabrook.
As to what is next with this lawsuit, the Valdosta Police Department has turned the investigation over to the city’s attorney.