Jul 01, 2020
`You Broke My Wrist!' Police Sued for Taking Down Wrong Man
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By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press
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.
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.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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DHS Rule Change Will Allow ICE To Remove Foreign Students Taking Full-Online Course Load In The Fall
The Department of Homeland Security, through Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announced Monday that all participants in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will not be allowed to remain in the country and take a fully-online course load in the fall.
An ICE press release stated that DHS will not issue new visas for students enrolled or enrolling at schools that have opted not to hold in-person classes in the fall. Any foreign students currently in the U.S. must either return home if they wish to take a full term of online classes or transfer to a school offering in-person classes. Eligible students may remain in the country and take up to three credit hours worth of online classes.
WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 04: President Donald Trump and first Lady Melania Trump walk along the South Lawn during an event at the White House on July 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump is hosting a “Salute to America” celebration that includes flyovers by military aircraft and a large fireworks display. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
The rule change allows for removal proceedings to begin if foreign students do not comply and noted that rule changes allowing students to stay in the country without taking a full course load in the spring and summer were temporary measures meant to deal with the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic.
DHS did not immediately return Daily Caller’s inquiries on how many students they expect the rule change to impact in the fall.
The move is just the latest step the Trump administration has taken to restrict immigration throughout the coronavirus pandemic. (RELATED: Biden Says Trump’s New Immigration Order Is An ‘Attempt To Distract’ From Coronavirus ‘Failure’)
President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June that put a temporary stay on work visas in an effort to address rising unemployment due to coronavirus by freeing up an estimated 500,000 jobs. The order suspended H-1B visas, H-2B visas, certain J visas, and L visas but order carved out exceptions for lawful permanent residents, foreign workers who are essential to the U.S. food supply, and any spouse or child of a U.S. citizen.
Former Vice President Joe Biden accused Trump of using the order to distract the public from his handling of the pandemic.
“Immigrants help grow our economy and create jobs,” Biden tweeted at the time. “The President can’t scapegoat his way out of this crisis.”
This is yet another attempt to distract from this Administration’s failure to lead an effective response to COVID-19. Immigrants help grow our economy and create jobs. The President can’t scapegoat his way out of this crisis. https://t.co/FEqWNJG6TK
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 23, 2020
The State Department also moved to expel Chinese graduate students studying in the country as a retaliatory measure for China’s action in Hong Kong.
The action would impact roughly 3,000 of the 360,000 Chinese students in the country, all of whom were identified by State as having direct ties to the Communist Party of China.
The president tweeted “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL” just after the announcement was made.
SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin suggested Friday that the next round of coronavirus stimulus legislation could include dedicated funds for schools so that they can reopen in the fall while following social distancing guidelines. Democrats in the Senate are also pushing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to include similar allocations in any potential bill.