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SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Body camera video shows Antonio Arnelo Smith handing his driver’s license to a Black police officer and answering questions cooperatively before a white officer walks up behind him, wraps him in a bear hug and slams him face-first to the ground.

“Oh my God, you broke my wrist!” the 46-year-old Black man screams as two more white Valdosta officers arrive, holding him down and handcuffing him following the takedown.

One eventually tells Smith he’s being arrested on an outstanding warrant, and is immediately corrected by the first officer: They’ve got the wrong man.

Clutching his wrist and whimpering, Smith was let go without charges after the violent encounter on Feb. 8 in Valdosta, Georgia, near the Florida state line.

Now he’s suing all four officers, as well as Valdosta’s police chief, mayor and others, saying police 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.”

The federal lawsuit comes during a national outcry over police brutality against people of color, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Haugabrook said police stopped Smith for questioning after a drug store employee reported him for panhandling outside.

“Obviously it has some racial tones to it,” Haugabrook said Thursday.

Smith’s encounter with police went largely unnoticed for more than four months, until he filed suit June 19. The city of Valdosta issued a statement three days after that, saying police are conducting an internal investigation and that Smith never filed a complaint.

City officials also released one of the four body camera recordings — that of the officer who grabbed Smith, which doesn’t show the takedown because the camera is pressed to Smith’s back. Valdosta officials didn’t release body camera videos with a clearer view until after the Valdosta Daily Times published one received from Smith’s attorneys.

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The city’s statement said police responding to a report that a man was harassing customers and asking for money outside the drug store simultaneously found two suspects nearby who fit the description. Officers questioning one of them learned he had an outstanding arrest warrant. The other was Smith.

The city’s statement says 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.” Smith “began to resist by pulling his arms forward and tensing his body,” prompting Wheeler to take him to the ground, the city said.

This is not an accurate description of what the officers’ body cameras recorded.

The video shows Wheeler walk up silently behind Smith, grab his right wrist and pin both of his arms to his sides in a bear hug. Only then does he order Smith to put his pinned hands behind his back, and Wheeler slams him to the ground almost immediately thereafter.

Asked about this discrepancy, a city spokeswoman, Ashlyn Johnson, said the city had no further comment. She said she did not know the status of the officers involved.

“The City of Valdosta and the Valdosta Police Department take any report of any injury to a citizen seriously,” the statement said.

The videos, recorded at noon on a clear, sunny day, show the encounter from beginning to end. Smith cries out in pain that his wrist is broken, and Wheeler says: “Yeah, he might be broke.” The officers remove the handcuffs within about a minute and call for an ambulance. Still on the ground, Smith asks why he’s being arrested.

“We have a warrant for your arrest,” one officer tells Smith.

That prompts the officer who first stopped Smith, identified in court records as Dominic Henry, to correct them.

“Hey, this was another guy,” Henry says. “The guy with the warrant’s over there. No, there’s two different people.”

Smith leaves the scene before paramedics arrive. His lawyer said Smith wanted to get away from the officers as quickly as possible, and the wrist never healed properly.

Smith’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeks unspecified monetary damages. In a letter sent to Valdosta officials seeking a settlement before the lawsuit was filed, Smith’s attorneys asked for $700,000. But he also wants something more, his lawyer said: A commitment by the Valdosta Police Department to reform.

News Source: newsbrig.com

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Jarmond faces many challenges in taking over as UCLAs AD

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Most new athletic directors who take over in July have the luxury of getting acclimated to their new school before things really ramp up in two months. That isn’t going to be the case for the start of Martin Jarmond’s tenure at UCLA.

“You would like have something resembling normalcy, but I have to come in and embrace the challenges,” said Jarmond, who officially took the helm on Wednesday. “I’m not the only one going through what is an uncertain time.”

The 39-year old Jarmond was named UCLA’s first Black athletic director in May. He is also the first AD in the program’s 101-year history who has no prior ties to the university. He replaces Dan Guerrero, who led his alma mater for 18 years.

Jarmond, who was hired in Westwood after three years leading Boston College’s athletic department, has a lot on his plate. Not only is there trying to navigate 23 teams in 15 sports through the coronavirus pandemic, but there is the added challenge of Under Armour trying to terminate its record apparel contract with the university. The company informed UCLA last week of its intentions.

The two sides are four years into a 15-year deal worth $280 million, which remains the highest in college athletics. Under Armour pays $11 million per year in rights and marketing fees as well as contributing $2 million per year to aid in facility improvements. Under terms of the contract, the company is supposed to supply $6.85 million in athletic apparel, footwear and uniforms.

Jarmond reiterated last week’s statement that the matter is being evaluated by the university and its attorneys.

Under Armour cited the team’s struggles in its highest profile sports as a reason for ending the partnership. The football program has had a losing record four straight seasons, including a 7-17 mark in Chip Kelly’s first two seasons, which has led to declining attendance at the Rose Bowl. Men’s basketball struggled the first half of last season but won nine of its last 11 in Mick Cronin’s first season.

On-field performance though will eventually rise on Jarmond’s list of priorities. His first task is trying to make sure UCLA’s teams can return healthy once games begin. The campus started welcoming athletes in football and fall Olympic sports last week, beginning with testing before they could progress to offseason conditioning drills.

The NCAA recently approved a plan allowing for extended football and basketball workouts, but the county has not cleared UCLA for that timeline yet. The university reports that 75 members of the campus community have tested positive, but doesn’t specify whether they are athletes. This past week, 18 students and six staff members had positive tests.

When football players expressed concerns about returning to campus two weeks ago, Jarmond met with the team via Zoom to answer questions along with Kelly.

“I thought it was important to make sure everyone was heard, along with trying to show coaches that things can be addressed head on,” Jarmond said. “I think our safety plan is thorough but we can’t control the spikes going on throughout the country.”

Jarmond is known as one of the country’s best athletic fundraisers, not only at Boston College but when he worked in the athletic programs at Michigan State and Ohio State. That will be needed at UCLA, which ran an $18.9-million deficit during the 2019 fiscal year. That figure could more than double this year.

Jarmond is still doing most of his work from Boston while trying to relocate to Los Angeles. He was on campus last month for the first time after all of his interviews with the search committee were done remotely due to the pandemic.

In order to find out more from students and supporters, he has launched MJ Listens on the athletic program’s website.

“It is critically important to listen and learn from key stakeholders. I have a pretty good idea of where to start but a lot of things will be dictated with what is currently happening,” he said.

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Follow Joe Reedy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/joereedy

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