Lawsuit Alleges Officer Assaulted 15 Year Old Girl In Mall Parking Lot

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

monique-tillman-tacoma-mall-cameraThe family of a then fifteen year old girl filed a lawsuit against a Tacoma, Washington mall and its security contractor alleging a Tacoma Police Officer used excessive force during what plaintiff’s claim is an unjustified stop and arrest. Newly released security video shows in the opinion of your author a disturbing example of a law enforcement officer utilizing not only unjustified and unreasonable force, but disregard for even common decency and showing clear conduct unbecoming of a professional.

The incident was captured on surveillance video and shows what I believe is self-evident conduct likely to garner strong liability on behalf of defendants.


 

In May of 2014, plaintiff Monique Charlene Tillman and her brother claim earlier in the day they sold clothing to earn money to buy food. Afterward they biked through the Tacoma Mall parking lot on their way home. It was during this crossing that off-duty Tacoma Police Officer Jared Williams, who was working a paid detail for the mall and not on official assignment with the police department, stopped the siblings. The event is shown in the below video.

The lawsuit claims that after being stopped by Officer Williams,  accompanied by three mall security guards, Monique began arguing and tried to ride away. During this stop, the lawsuit alleges that the teenagers where told they would be banned from mall property for creating a disturbance.

As Monique started to ride away, Officer Williams yanked her from her bicycle and aggressively arrested her, finishing the incident by firing a Taser at her.

This is surveillance video showing the incident.

Plaintiff alleges the stop was unlawful, but your author does not have information regarding the reasonable suspicion or probable cause stated by Officer Williams who charged Monique with Assault in the Fourth Degree claiming assault on the officer. Several months later a Pierce County Juvenile Court dismissed this charge. For the purposes of discussion, we will not discuss the reasonable suspicion alleged for stopping Monique or her brother. In my opinion it is really only tangent to the use of force engaged by Officer Williams. I do not consider his actions to be justified by whatever crime Monique could be accused. I believe the force used was facially unlawful.

My analysis of the video is as follows.

  • The video begins with Monique and her brother riding through the parking lot, followed by Officer Williams and the security guards.
  • 00:17 Personal contact is made with Monique who is upon her bicycle. She begins talking and directing his attention ahead with hand gestures probably indicating her destination as she passes through the parking lot.
  • 00:48 Officer Williams pulls a notebook from his shirt pocket, Most likely to begin writing information about the incident or Monique’s name.
  • 00:56 Monique leans forward, appearing to ride away. She has her right foot on the ground and her hands probably on the handlebars.
  • 00:57 Officer Williams, using both hands while still holding the notepad grasps her left arm and pulls her toward him.If Williams did not allow Monique to leave simply stepping forward and holding her back with a hand or grabbing the handlebar I am certain would have been sufficient to stop her from leaving. Preventing Monique from leaving an investigation would be lawful, provided in this case a minimal amount of force is used.
  • 00:58 Officer Williams pulls Monique from the bike quickly while attempting to put Monique to the ground using a Straight Arm Bar Takedown. Monique does not fall to the ground and stands.I believe pulling Monique from the bicycle in this manner is unnecessary and a reasonable action would be to have her dismount the bicycle and remain standing, or even ordering her to sit on the pavement. She was not given any opportunity to do so. An Arm Bar Takedown can cause minor injuries to a person upon striking pavement as it is common for the target of the takedown to suddenly fall to the ground. Used properly the takedown can be mitigated by holding the arm and setting the person down but this is not always successful. But, again, I do not believe it was necessary.
  • 00:59 Monique turns in a manner consistent with being spun around by Williams who is trying to restrain her. The two then go off camera. One of the security guards holds back her brother briefly.
  • 01:08 Monique is held to the black SUV, restrained by a palm to her chest. Monique appears to be holding onto Officer Williams’ left forearm.
  • 01:24 Officer Williams attempts to put Monique’s right arm behind her back to cuff her but this does not happen. Instead, Williams spins her around and walks her to the from of the vehicle where he again pushes her into the SUV, probably in another attempt to handcuff her.
  • 01:29 After another unsuccessful attempt to put Monique onto the ground, and she stands, Officer Williams grabs her by the back of the head using a hair-hold while using a wrist clench.
  • 01:32 Officer Williams strongly yanks Monique, by the hair, to the sidewalk.Given the hardness of the ground, the physical size of Monique compared with Officer Williams, his strength, and training, and the fact that this incident was a minor violation at best, lesser means should have been employed.  Officers are permitted by state law and common law to exercise reasonable force to overcome resistance, which defendants are likely to argue.  However reasonableness is by both forms of law mandated.
  • 01:38 Williams straddles Monique and draws a Taser.
  • 01:40 Officer Williams shoots Monique with the darts of his Taser as evidenced by her clenching and the reflection of a wire in the video. He then holds his Taser while standing above her.In my view there was no reason to deploy a Taser against Monique given that she was on the ground and could have been cuffed with little difficulty. In fact, she was where Williams wanted her to be given that he used Straight Arm Bar Takedowns before. He was already standing above her and unless she displayed a weapon, which there is no evidence this occurred, the Taser use was excessive.
  • 01:53 One of the security guards comes forward and handcuffs Monique while Williams stands over her, holding the Taser. She remains on the sidewalk at least until the video ends.

Plaintiff’s attorney Vito de la Cruz said in a statement:

“A child riding a bike should not have to worry that a police officer will stop her without legal cause and brutalize her. Our communities are weary of another African American child being hurt by unwarranted and excessive police force.”

In filing the lawsuit against Tacoma Mall’s owner, Simon Property Group, and security contractor Universal Services of America, Plaintiff claims negligence but has not presently enumerated monetary damages.

By Darren Smith

Source: KOMO News

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

42 thoughts on “Lawsuit Alleges Officer Assaulted 15 Year Old Girl In Mall Parking Lot

  1. According to Amnesty International, between 2001 and 2008, 351 people in the United States died after being shocked by police Tasers. Another blog has documented another 283 taser-related deaths in the United States in 2009-2014. That means there have been 634 documented taser-related deaths in America.

  2. Karen asked:

    “Even though this did not occur on duty, can the police department review the incident and his fitness for duty?”
    ~+~
    Yes, off-duty conduct directly pertinent to job functions can be applicable to questions of fitness for duty. One the other side of the spectrum we have discussed in several articles how employees of government agencies, including LEOs, are harmed in their careers by expressing speech, criticism, or politics. This incident would be of the other pole since there is a direct correlation between off-duty and on-duty.

    In this case, the alleged behavior calls into question the officer’s professionalism, judgment, and demeanor. He is performing the same type of action, contacting an individual for some violation, as he would while working a shift on patrol or other similar assignment. If he in a situation such as the mall where a fifteen year old girl caused him to go ballistic and use what I believe to be unlawful force there are far more mouthy, difficult, and button-pushing people he will encounter at work and what would happen when he faces these kind of individuals, and also as equally important have incidents such as this happened before or will they continue.

    Every person has triggers that when activated can cause them to become angry very quickly. It is how they act after these triggers that matters. It is important to recognize, especially in LEOs and those having authority over others, what these triggers are and to come to terms with them before they get out of hand.

    • Darren,

      You may recall the Coronado police rookie officer who had just gotten off duty and was driving his personal car home and who followed a car that he suspected was being driving by a drunk. He followed the car perhaps a dozen miles into San Diego because the driver refused to stop until (it turns out) it was in front of the driver’s home in San Diego. Chargers linebacker Steve Foley was shot in the abdomen (as I recall) while approaching the officer who told him to stop. It ended Foley’s career.

      Harvey Levine was Foley’s attorney and sued the City of Coronado for millions. The City settled for $3,000.000.00 (IIRC), even though the officer was off-duty when the incident occurred.

      http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sports/chargers/20060904-9999-1m4foleyshot.html

  3. phillyT:

    “you can say it’s not about race, and maybe it’s not ALL or ONLY about race, but it’s definitely about race.” That would only be true if you compared how this cop behaved off duty with the same situation, same age, and the only difference was race. You can’t compare how a cop behaved in another state. Those cops might be permissive with everyone.

    Of course the incident should be investigated from all angles. But it’s premature to assume it’s about race. You’ll notice he didn’t attack her brother, who was the same race.

    Darren – I’m glad such behavior would trigger a review.

  4. Karen
    until someone does that study we’ll have to draw our own conclusions. Based on the history of police behavior in the black communities for the last, oh say, 150 years, I think we would be pretty safe in assuming that race was a factor, until someone proves otherwise. The default position here is not to believe the police.

  5. She was asked nicely to either cooperate or stop or whatever he was asking her, maybe like her name.

    She may have said something like I hope you get your throat cut and die a slow death or I hope your wife gets raped and then cuts your kids up.

    She fought him when asked to get off of her bike. Reminds me of the McKinney PD officer who got fired dealing with another bratazz mouthy teenager who refused to follow his instructions.

    When you deal with this X 10 in one day, your nerves are raw. Dealing with teenagers is the worse of the worst. She wouldn’t give her name, she wouldn’t get off of her bike and she fought him going down. What’s he suppose to do, say please!

    Her mouth was writing checks that her azz couldn’t cash. She gets treated worse by her mother, I guarantee it.

    • Lisa N. writes, “She may have said something like I hope you get your throat cut and die a slow death or I hope your wife gets raped and then cuts your kids up.”

      Such a nice thought, Lisa. What do you when you hear the voices?

  6. phillyT:

    Automatically assuming that a white cop is racist is actually racist – because the only criteria is that the officer’s skin is white and the suspect’s skin is black. He might just be an ass. We don’t know yet. They will hopefully review his past interactions for signs of racism or other bad behavior. That kind of racist rhetoric, before all the facts are in, is so divisive. On the other hand, if he is proven to be racist, then I will definitely pile on the condemnation.

    Also, the nature of the job is to deal with the public – the good, the bad, and the annoyingly mouthy. If a cop starts to get frayed nerves, he needs to take time off or consider a change in profession before something like this happens.

  7. What was she even being detained for? Riding her bicycle through a mall parking lot stop sign? Crossing through the parking lanes? Whatever it is, there is no implication in the article that the officer thought that she was a murderer or bank robber or any serious criminal.

    Regardless, the thing that strikes me is that some police officers resort to direct physical force so quickly (not all, but it is certainly not as rare as we would like). For one thing, he appears to have no room in his universe for the idea that sometimes people just don’t do what you want and you have to accept that. If you or I felt the need to talk to some kid or get their name or whatever and they tried to leave, if we are rational and generally don’t want to get sued, we have to accept the idea that sometimes people are going to walk away from us when we don’t want them to and we can’t just decide to physically wrestle them to the ground until they do what we want.

    Of course, some will whine that “But, he’s a cop! Stopping her is his job! What’s he supposed to do, let rapists and robbers walk away from him if they don’t want to talk?” Well, actually, in this situation, that sort of disproportionate comparison is nonsense. He wasn’t stopping, investigating, or pursuing a serious criminal. And, in his duties as a mall cop, he has no legal obligation to detain her or even get her name. So, in fact, if he had simply decided that a physical confrontation was unwarranted, he simply could have let her go. That’s right: Just. Let. Her. Go. Aside from him not getting his way, there would have been no harm in that outcome. Which is to say, there would have been no harm in that outcome. Quite frankly, even the short interaction with the officer before she tried to leave on her own would likely have been enough of a warning to her. The idea that she needed to face more serious consequences than that is a little silly.

    And, of course, there is the secondary issue of what the mall (by which I mean the mall owners and the store owners therein) really would have wanted. The mall may well want bicyclists to obey the traffic signs at the mall, both for safety and liability reasons. But… The mall doesn’t want to scare teenagers out of the mall. It doesn’t want potential customers (including teenagers) thinking that riding to the mall or even near the mall is a frightening prospect that might end with them thrown against a car or slammed to the ground. The mall definitely doesn’t want parents associating the mall with violence against their kids. And, of course, the mall doesn’t want to be the defendant in a widely publicized lawsuit because one of its employees just can’t deal with a world where a teenager doesn’t do exactly what he says. So, actually, the mall cop’s job might well be to make nice with people with whom he has an encounter on mall property and, if they are just breaking some parking lot traffic rule, to politely advise them to obey the rules for their own safety and that of others before sending them on their way.

  8. Steve Groen -> Law Enforcement and Federal Officer, why? Got a problem with it, too bad but I bet you’d want my azz in front of yours when some nasty gang banger confronts your pink smart mouth.

    • Lisa N writes, “Steve Groen -> Law Enforcement and Federal Officer, why? Got a problem with it, too bad but I bet you’d want my azz in front of yours when some nasty gang banger confronts your pink smart mouth.”

      Not really, Lisa N, but I will leave you with this one thought: If I’m ever in a bar fight against transgenders seeking to use their non-bio restroomz, I know your azz will be right there in front of mine leading the charge for god, corpz, and country. Keep drinking that Mountain Dew.

  9. If a taser is not a deadly weapon then we should have our courts impose the taser punishment on criminals such as the cop here. This cop should get a year in jail for the assault and battery plus five seconds of full tilt bogie by a taser.

  10. I don’t accept that this is racist at all. I do accept that it was unreasonable force. Yes she was resisting but when the police escalate in a socially unexpected way it is only natural to resist having your face shoved into a car or the concrete.

    As for his tacti-cool bearing and half-assed techniques, I have seen better irimi-nage from the handicapped. Bust him down to writing parking tickets, fast.

    You bootlickers apologizing for this are the ones who should be ashamed of yourselves.

  11. Yes and why did he have to pin his hands on her chest like that to “control” her. Pathetic and very sketchy. Really inappropriate.

    If my daughter got manhandled like this, he would not just lose his job, there wouldn’t just be a 1983 lawsuit, but he would be hiring fancy defense counsel and worrying about how to get himself into protective custody.

    The low-key involvement of the second officer gives lie to the situation. The cop was in a fit of roid rage no doubt. It’s time to start testing cops for steroid abuse folks, in all seriousness.

  12. Again, cops like the rough jerk in the story, are not “racist,” that’s an insult to racists.

    They are just over-charged dolts who have a very distorted understanding of their importance to society.

  13. Steve Groen – I for one do not go to bars. If I insulted you because you’re transgendered, accept my apology. Keep up your fantasy transgendering fights, I won’t stand in your way. Have at it baby!

  14. No offense to Ronnie Coleman, who has never been accused of inappropriate police conduct, I just use the image of his overblown biceps to make the point about steroid abuse among cops. They really, really need to settle down. I had a frisky State Police officer lady give me a ticket once for gliding through a stop sign, who was visibly agitated and gripping her weapon like I was going to bolt from my mercedes in my suit and commit a forcible felony right in front of her face. Just what I need, too much coffee in the morning and I may eat a bullet.

    It’s not just blacks who get abused by cops people, wake up; the racial angle is not what this is about– however much the BLM freaks may confuse the issue.

  15. The problem with this whole thing is it says she was 15 in 2014 but she is 19 now, they waited this long to sue. You don’t know what was going on before. Tacoma PD do not wear their TPD uniforms or drive TPD cars (which he was doing) when working off duty as security-I live here, have for over 30 years, and there is always cops working off duty as security at that mall.. Tacoma mall security are the the white shirted guys. This family never made any comments to the news or anything else for 2 years. TPD only deals with people at the mall after the mall security has called them in, if the cop and mall security were following them (which you can clearly see in the video that they had been following her) then this was not just a stop to talk. There is no audio so there is no way to know if they were calling for her to stop previously. This whole thing seems like a set up. The brother doesn’t say anything, and he is not bothered at all, if just judging by the video.

  16. A couple of things in this story bother me. First, they sold clothing to earn money to buy food. Hmmm. Wonder about the home life.
    Secondly, what initiated the stop?
    Did the first officer think the bikes were stolen?
    If so, what evidence wast there to lead the officer to think that?
    Why did the officer not engage the male in a conversation?
    Was riding a bike through a mall parking lot against the law?
    Was it because those bike riders were black?
    Would I have been stopped while riding my bike thru the mall parking lot?
    Is this a case where innocent until PROVEN guilty simply did not apply?
    Will these 2 people now grow into adulthood. with a chip on their shoulder about cops?
    Could this ‘chip’ cause another unfortunate death of a black person?

    This utter lack of judgment, by a so called trained professional, is what pains me.

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