Police in Tallahassee on Tuesday said that they “stand by our practices” that resulted in a woman’s cheekbone being broken last month when two officers slammed her face on the ground during an arrest for drunk driving.
Attorney Fred Conrad told the Tallahassee Democrat that he planned to sue the Tallahassee Police Department on behalf of his client, 44-year-old Christina West, after he reviewed dashcam video of officers breaking the orbital bone in her face and causing other injuries.
Dashcam video shows officers giving West a field sobriety test after she crashed her SUV into a house on Aug. 10. West is placed in a patrol car, but she is later asked to get out of the car.
A struggle occurs while the woman is asking her about her husband and a car seat for her child, and the two officers slam her head into the cruiser. And then the two men force her to the ground with their full weight, causing her to scream in agony as her face is smashed on the pavement.
But Officer Chris Ormerod’s police report described this incident this way: “West was placed on the ground where she began to thrash and kick wildly. West kicked me in the groin area and kicked officer Schmidt in the leg… West was placed in a thigh lock on the ground as I secured her hands. While handcuffing West’s hands, she continued to violently make attempts to grab for my groin area with her hands.”
Conrad said that he “had a physical reaction to that tape the first time I saw that video.”
“I don’t care if she was drunker than Cooter Brown and took a breath test and blew through the moon … that’s not warranted. That’s not okay,” Conrad insisted to WCTV.
State Attorney Willie Meggs told the station that the dashcam video was “very disturbing.”
“I didn’t see anything in the video that would cause me to believe that this woman needed anybody to use any type of force or restraint on her,” Meggs explained.
The State Attorney’s office has dismissed charges of assault on a police officer and battery charges filed by a nurse at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. A DUI charge is still pending while the state waits for toxicology results.
After reviewing the video, City Commissioner Scott Maddox wrote City Manager Anita Favors Thompson and City Attorney Lew Shelley that the city should expect a “substantial” lawsuit, according to Tallahassee Democrat.
“The video was taken from the police car and shows the road side sobriety test as well as the arrest of the subject,” Maddox noted. “It also shows DISTURBING use of force against a completely non aggressive arrestee. It is my belief that the city of Tallahassee will soon face a liability lawsuit based on the content of the video.”
West has already had two surgeries as a result of her injuries.
“I can say I intend to pursue just compensation for Ms. West,” Conrad said. “And I can say I intend to do it relentlessly. I intend to make the police department pay for this. This is wrong. And they need to pay for it.”
But in a statement to WCTV on Tuesday, Tallahassee Police Department spokesperson David Northway defended the arrest.
“We standby our practices that we have in place and we also stand by the procedures that we have in place,” Northway remarked. “And if there is something that has gone awry in this investigation then the proper procedures will be followed and actions will be taken against those officers.”
The two officers involved in incident have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues.
Watch the video below from WCTV, broadcast Sept. 11, 2013.