A Black man who was slammed to the ground in a case of mistaken identity is suing the Valdosta Georgia Police Department, according to The Associated Press.
The confrontation caught on police bodycam video shows a Black police officer talking to the victim, Antonio Arnelo Smith, as he is responding to the officer’s questions after handing him his driver’s license. A white police officer is seen coming up behind Smith and in an unprovoked move, he aggressively grabs Smith from behind and viciously slams him face-first onto the ground, breaking his wrist in the process.
“Oh my God, you broke my wrist!” the 46-year-old Smith yells out as two more white police officers join in and handcuff him. As he is lying on the ground, the Black officer tells them that the man they were initially looking for on an outstanding warrant was just picked up down the street and that he had just started talking to Smith.
The incident, which took place on Feb. 8, ended without Smith being arrested or charged. Now, Smith has filed a lawsuit suing all four officers involved as well as Valdosta’s police chief, mayor, and others. He said that the police officers used excessive force and violated his civil rights.
“When you see that video, you can’t help but say this is a travesty,” said Nathaniel Haugabrook, one of Smith’s attorneys. “Nobody should be done that way.”
“Obviously it has some racial tones to it,” Haugabrook said.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, seeks unspecified monetary damages.
The city of Valdosta issued a statement that stated that police were responding to a report that a man was harassing customers and asking for money outside the drug store and they found two suspects who fit the description. Officers questioning one of them learned he had an outstanding arrest warrant. The other one happened to be Smith.
The city said that an officer, identified in the lawsuit as Sgt. Billy Wheeler, approached Smith mistakenly believing he was the wanted man, and “advised him to place his hands behind his back.” He then stated that Smith “began to resist by pulling his arms forward and tensing his body,” prompting Wheeler to take him to the ground, the city said.
Based on the bodycam footage, that wasn’t the case at all.
Although the city had access to the body cameras, they only released the cam footage of the officer who grabbed Smith, which doesn’t clearly show the takedown because the camera is pressed to Smith’s back. Only after the Valdosta Daily Times published a video supplied to them by Smith’s attorney, did officials release the video posted above.