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Valdosta City Council approves settlement in excessive force lawsuit

The front of the Valdosta Police Department headquarters.
The front of the Valdosta Police Department headquarters.(WALB)
Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 1:18 PM EDT
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) - The Valdosta City Council approved a settlement between the city and Antonio Smith, the man who sued the Valdosta Police Department over excessive force in a Feb. 2020 incident, Thursday night.

Under the settlement, Smith will be paid $350,000 and the city will create a citizens review board for VPD. Additionally, the claims against the city and all defendants will be released.

The original lawsuit, filed in the Middle District of Georgia, sought $700,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit claimed Smith’s wrist was fractured during the incident.

The lawsuit also claimed law enforcement’s use of force was “unnecessary and excessive.”

“From the moment Mr. Smith was slammed to the ground until he walked away, he cried and screamed in agonizing pain,” the lawsuit states.

You can watch body camera footage from the incident at this link or below.

INCIDENT DETAILS

VPD released a summary of the incident on its Facebook page in June 2020.

Police were dispatched to the 2800 block of North Ashley Street on a 911 call. They responded to a report of a man outside Walgreens harassing customers, screaming loudly and asking for money.

The man was wearing a brown hoodie and blue pants, according to police.

Two VPD officers responded to the call and started looking for the man independently from one another. A customer identified the man matching the description to one of the officers. The other officer looked behind the store and found a man behind the building.

“While (the) first officer was running the identification provided by the subject, it was learned that he had active felony arrest warrants. This police band communication between the first officer and dispatch was overheard by other officers arriving at the location,” VPD said on its Facebook page.

Around the same time, the other officer, who was on the other side of the store, found a man walking away from Walgreens. The officer told the man he was investigating a suspicious person. The man was wearing a brown hoodie and blue pants.

In minutes, another officer responded after hearing the communication and found the officer questioning the man walking away from the store.

“The responding officer believed this individual was the subject of the 911 call and was the individual with felony warrants based on his observations of the subject’s interaction with the second officer,” the department said.

VPD also wrote how the brief detainment happened.

“The responding officer approached the subject and advised him to place his hands behind his back,” the police department said. “At this point, the responding officer used a physical control technique to place the subject on the ground so handcuffs could be applied. “This procedure involves the officer going the ground with the subject.”

While being handcuffed, the officer noticed the man’s wrist was injured from the fall to the ground. Once the injury was noticed, the man was removed from the handcuffs.

Police learned the man was the one in the 911 call and not the one with felony warrants.

The man in handcuffs was examined by EMS and declined treatment.

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