Bodycam footage of the incident makes it obvious that the sergeant who arrested Antonio Smith had no idea who the man was or why he was arresting him.
Antonio Smith, a black Georgia resident, is suing the Valdosta Police Department for “unnecessary and excessive” use of force.
USA Today reports that Smith filed his lawsuit in federal court last Friday. In his complaint, Smith accuses his arresting officers of body-slamming him so hard that he was seriously injured. Video of the incident shows a visibly distressed Smith pressed to the ground, audibly gasping and exclaiming that his wrist had been broken.
“From the moment Mr. Smith was slammed to the ground until he walked away, he cried and screamed in agonizing pain,” the lawsuit states.
The incident took place in February, but Valdosta just took released bodycam footage of it.
“The City of Valdosta is fully committed to transparency,” a city spokesperson said in a statement. “The City of Valdosta and the Valdosta Police Department takes any report of any injury to a citizen seriously.”
The lawsuit, adds USA Today, names Valdosta and Smith’s arresting officers as defendants. It requests $700,000 in compensation, much of which will be paid towards Smith’s medical expenses.
Smith’s case is jarring—if not surprising—for what officers’ bodycam footage shows.
Smith had been approached by a Valdosta police officer responding to a “suspicious activity” call. When the officer approached Smith and asked for identification, Smith repeatedly said he had been at a nearby Western Union picking up a wire from his sister.
Suddenly, a police sergeant walks up briskly behind Smith. He grabs Smith’s hands, then throws him on the ground. It is apparent, from the context and dialog, that the sergeant did not know why Smith was being confronted by law enforcement—and thought that Smith was a different suspect altogether.
According to The Valdosta Daily Times, officers had been dispatched on two separate calls.
The officer who approached Smith for “suspicious activity” was, in fact, investigating a panhandling complaint.
After Smith was body-slammed onto the ground, the sergeant told Smith there was a warrant out for his arrest.
“This is another guy,” the officer equipped with a body camera said. “The guy with the warrant’s over there.”
“There’s two different people,” he said. “That’s why I was trying to figure out if I had missed something, when you told him to put his hands behind his back.”
Once the sergeant realized the mistake, he took the handcuffs off Smith and allowed him to stand up. The officers then told Smith that they were calling an ambulance to treat his injuries.
Smith, however, declined the ambulance ride, and can be seen walking away from the officers on foot. He later went to the hospital by himself, where he was diagnosed with “distal radial and ulnar fractures.”
Although Smith never filed a formal complaint against the officers involved in the incident, the department conducted an internal investigation—and took no action against any of them.
Smith’s attorney, Nathaniel Haugabrook, told BuzzFeed News that his client is not trying to get any of the officers fired. Instead, he is trying to recoup funds for his medical treatment—money he never had in the first place.
Smith’s other priority, says Haugabrook, is to “help with this movement around the world to rectify police brutality […] and for police reform and accountability.”