Georgia Police Hit With $700,000 Excessive Force Lawsuit

A 46-year-old Black man claims his civil rights were violated after he was wrongfully detained and injured by police back in February.


Image via Getty/Jerome Gilles/NurPhoto


A 46-year-old Black man has sued Georgia police officers for "unnecessary and excessive" use of force. According to the Valdosta Daily TimesAntonio Arnelo Smith filed the lawsuit in federal court last Friday, nearly five months after Valdosta officers mistook him for a panhandling suspect.

Bodycam footage of the Feb. 8 incident shows white officers confronting Smith outside a Walgreens. The man informs authorities he had just left the pharmacy store where he was waiting for his sister to wire him money through Western Union. Officers then ask Smith if he has any identification on him; Smith then hands over an ID card while insisting he did nothing wrong. Moments later, another officer walks up behind Smith and restrains him in a "bear hug." The officers tell Smith to put his hands behind his back before he is body-slammed to the ground.

"I wasn’t doing anything!" Smith screams as officers place him in handcuffs. "... You broke my wrist!"

An officer is heard saying, "Yeah, he might be broke," before another officer tells the man to relax. The officers then remove the handcuffs, and Smith is falsely informed there was a warrant for his arrest. Another officer is heard saying that they detained the wrong suspect, and that Smith was not the man with a warrant.

"I thought he was the one with warrant," said the officer who slammed Smith.

"There's two different people ... 'cause they said [Smith] was the guy, but apparently there's another guy over there too," another officer explained.

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According to the Daily Times, the lawsuit accuses the officers of "conspiracy to create a false report, excessive force, false detention, false arrest and assault and battery." The complaint states Smith sustained "distal radial and ulnar fractures" and was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. 

Smith is asking for compensation and punitive damages in the amount of $700,000. Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson, Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan, members of the Valdosta City Council, three Valdosta officers, and one police sergeant are listed as defendants.

"The City of Valdosta is fully committed to transparency. To achieve that goal, the VPD has released the full body camera footage of the responding officer which can be viewed on the city’s website," city officials announced on Facebook this week. "The City of Valdosta and the Valdosta Police Department takes any report of any injury to a citizen seriously. Although there was no complaint filed with VPD, Once the shift supervisor was notified it prompted the review process of the incident by the Officer’s Supervisor, Patrol Bureau Commander, Internal Affairs Division and Chief of Police."

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