June 22, 2021

$350,000 settlement offered in police takedown of wrong man

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Officers of a Georgia metropolis have supplied a $350,000 authorized settlement to a Black man injured final yr when a police officer violently slammed him within the floor, later saying he mistakenly believed the person had an excellent arrest warrant.

The settlement proposal permitted Thursday by the Valdosta Metropolis Council additionally would create a citizen evaluation board to assist oversee native police and make coverage suggestions.

Antonio Arnelo Smith, 47, sued Valdosta police and different metropolis officers in U.S. District Court docket a yr in the past, saying officers used extreme power and violated his civil rights. Physique digicam footage confirmed Smith speaking cooperatively with a Black police officer on Feb. 8, 2020, as a white officer crept up behind him, pinned Smith’s fingers behind his again and slammed him face-first to the bottom.

“Oh my God, you broke my wrist!” Smith screamed on the recording as two extra white Valdosta officers held him down and handcuffed him. When an officer informed Smith he was being arrested on an excellent warrant, one other instantly interjected that he was the incorrect man.

A spokeswoman for Valdosta Metropolis Corridor, Ashlyn Johnson, confirmed the settlement supply Friday. In change for $350,000 and creation of the citizen evaluation board, it says, Smith would drop all claims in his lawsuit. Valdosta is in south Georgia simply north of the Florida state line.

Nathaniel Haugabrook, one among Smith’s attorneys, mentioned Friday that he was nonetheless reviewing the proposal.

“I think about at this level it’ll transfer at lightning velocity, when it comes to a decision,” mentioned Haugabrook, including that Smith ”desires to see all of this behind him.”

He mentioned creation of a citizen panel to assist oversee the Valdosta Police Division had been Smith’s high precedence within the lawsuit. In a letter to metropolis officers in search of a settlement earlier than the lawsuit was filed, Smith’s attorneys had additionally requested for $700,000.

Filed 4 months after Smith’s violent encounter with police, the lawsuit got here amid a nationwide outcry over police brutality towards folks of colour, sparked by the Could 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Officers confronted Smith on a transparent, sunny day after a drugstore worker referred to as police to report a person who was harassing prospects and asking for cash exterior. Officers discovered two suspects close by who match the outline. They realized one them had an excellent arrest warrant. The opposite was Smith.

Attorneys for Lt. Billy Wheeler, the officer seen on digicam wrapping Smith in a bear hug and slamming the person to the bottom, mentioned in courtroom filings that he mistakenly believed Smith was the wished man.

Police let Smith go with out expenses, and he left the scene with out ready for paramedics to reach.

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