Valdosta, GA – A man whose wrist was broken when he was detained by police in February has filed a $700,000 lawsuit against the city of Valdosta and its police department (video below).
The incident occurred on Feb. 8 when Valdosta police officers responded to the 2800-block of North Ashley Street for a 911 call about a man harassing customers outside of a Walgreens, WALB reported.
Witnesses told police that a man in a brown hoodie and blue pants had been screaming and asking customers for money.
Two Valdosta police officers responded to the store and split up to look for the suspect, WALB reported.
A customer was able to point the suspect out to one of the officers.
At the same time, the other officer encountered a different man matching the suspect’s description behind the building, WALB reported.
“While first officer was running the identification provided by the subject, it was learned that he had active felony arrest warrants,” Valdosta police explained on their official Facebook page. “This police band communication between the first officer and dispatch was overheard by other officers arriving at the location.”
When backup responded to the Walgreens, an officer went to assist the officer who was out back with the other suspect, believing that suspect was the subject of the active felony warrants confirmed over the police radio, WALB reported.
“The responding officer believed this individual was the subject of the 911 call and was the individual with felony warrants based on his observations of the subject’s interaction with the second officer,” Valdosta police said. “The responding officer approached the subject and advised him to place his hands behind his back. At this point, the responding officer used a physical control technique to place the subject on the ground so handcuffs could be applied.”
“This procedure involves the officer going the ground with the subject,” the PD added.
Bodycam video showed that the arriving officer approached the suspect – later identified as Antonio Smith – from the rear and put him in a bear hug.
“Oh my God, what are you doing?” Smith asked in the video.
“Put your hands behind your back,” the officer replied. “Put your hands behind your back like you’re told.”
“What are you do-” Smith started to ask and then screamed as officers took him to the ground.
Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan explained why the officer had reacted to Smith’s initial resisting arrest in the manner he had, WALB reported.
“He still thinks the subject has felony warrants,” Chief Manahan said. “When you are dealing with someone with felony warrants, you kinda want to move quick, really for the safety of everyone involved.”
But Smith injured his wrist in the takedown, WALB reported.
Bodycam video showed Smith screaming in pain, and the officers who were in the process of handcuffing him behind his back stopped and acknowledged that he might be injured.
The video showed the officers removed the handcuffs from Smith and helped him roll onto his back.
They attempted to handcuff the suspect in front but decided to leave his injured arm on the ground and free while they waited for medics to respond, the video showed.
Smith was eventually released when police figured out the misunderstanding, WALB reported.
“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,” Chief Manahan insisted.
Smith refused medical care at the scene but went to South Georgia Medical Center later in the day and was diagnosed with a fractured wrist, WALB reported.
“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,” the police chief explained. “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.”
Nathanial Haugabrook, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Smith, said that his client’s wrist was deformed from the incident and needed to be fixed by an orthopedic surgeon, WALB reported.
“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,” Haugabrook said.
Valdosta police said the investigation had been turned over to the city’s attorney, WALB reported.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below: