State Lawsuit Against Police Officer Allegedly Assaulting 15 Year Old Girl Removed To Federal Court

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor.

monique-tillman-tacoma-mall-cameraIn May of this year, we reported a disturbing allegation of an unlawful use of force against a then fifteen-year-old girl by a Tacoma Police Officer working an off-duty assignment at a large shopping mall.

Originally filed in with the Pierce County Washington Superior Court, on September 19th the case was removed to the U.S. District Court of Western Washington.

Surveillance video shows what appears to be disturbing actions by a professional police officer used against a petite fifteen year old for alleged criminal acts against her that were later dismissed. Plaintiff alleges in her tort claim that race discrimination was a factor in the incident.


 

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.

In the amended complaint filed in State Court, and subsequently entered into the federal court’s record, Plaintiffs allege that TPD Officer Williams, “had [not] seen Plaintiffs engage in any criminal activity prior to Defendant Knaack and Defendant Williams stopping Plaintiffs,” and further allege, “Defendant Williams allegedly responded that Plaintiffs were causing a disturbance and were being “trespassed” from the Mall because of their disruptive behavior. Plaintiff Tillman responded that she believed was being harassed because of the color of her skin.”

Plaintiff states, and the video seems to support, that Officer Williams, “tossed Plaintiff Tillman around like a child’s doll, slamming her into parked vehicles, forcefully shoving his hand and forearm into her chest, grabbing her by the hair and body slamming her into the pavement. Once Defendant Williams had flung Plaintiff Tillman to the ground, he deployed his Taser, sending painful electric shocks through Plaintiff Tillman.

Plaintiff Branch [her brother] was horrified by Defendant Williams’ brutalization of his sister and attempted to come to her aid.

When Plaintiff Branch tried to help his sister, Defendant Williams ordered Plaintiff Branch to back off and pointed his Taser at him, threatening to deploy it.

Defendant Knaack either grabbed or shoved Plaintiff Branch to the ground
after Plaintiff Branch backed away from Defendant Williams.”

Plaintiffs generally allege Unlawful use of force, negligence in preventing excessive use of force and failure to upholding constitutional rights of persons in the community, Assault and Battery, intentional or reckless infliction of emotion distress, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, section 1983 violation–excessive use of force and deliberate indifference, and violation of the Washington Civil Rights Act.

My personal analysis of the surveillance video cited in the complaint 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.

While the complaint alleges that race was a factor in defendant’s alleged assault against the plaintiffs, I personally believe this is likely the least provable fact and no evidence to support this claim was proffered by Plaintiffs in the amended complaint other than mentioning that the “color of her skin” elicited the unlawful actions by Defendants. If however it is so proven, it would not only satisfy the Section 1983 race/color elements but greatly increase, obviously, the damages.

I do however feel this case has strong merit; sufficient enough to warrant a settlement offer by Defendants.

And, as I have mentioned repeatedly in the past, this is yet another shining example of how such small things can mushroom into a protracted controversy that is very costly to officers choosing to clamp down when it is not necessary. Those in authority need to understand that simply looking the other way on stuff that does not matter is often the best course of action. It is not worth it to anyone.

By Darren Smith

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.

176 thoughts on “State Lawsuit Against Police Officer Allegedly Assaulting 15 Year Old Girl Removed To Federal Court

  1. @Paul Schulte, September 26, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Perhaps if you were to share with him your expert medical opinion, the medical examiner might yet modify his report and change his ruling of Garner’s death as a homicide.

    I know that if I were he, and you were to share your diagnosis with me, I’d certainly change my report in order to save myself any further embarrassment.

    I think you owe it to the world to at least try to set him straight, Doctor.

  2. @Teaching Spastics to Dance, September 26, 2016 at 11:09 am

    “One thing that events in Baltimore and Staten Island have taught us is that the coroner will cave to political pressure in select circumstances.

    “The coroner in the Garner case was not making a scientific judgment, but a moral one based on a contentious conception of causality. Under almost no circumstances will tackling a 46 year old man kill him. The police did nothing out of the ordinary in tackling him. The police had no reason to believe that tackling him would cause him mortal injury.”

    Doctor, I hope that you’ll join Dr. Schulte in urging the NYC medical examiner, Barbara Sampson, M.D., Ph.D., to reverse her patently politically motivated and medically suspect report regarding the death of Mr. Garner, who died in the loving arms of members of the NYPD.

    To facilitate your documentation of the superiority of your credentials as forensic medical (and political) scientists compared with those of Dr. Sampson, here’s some information about her comparatively sketchy medical education and research background, which I’m confident will pale in comparison with your and Dr. Schulte’s CV, and which I hope modesty won’t prevent your pointing out to her:
    http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/551-14/mayor-de-blasio-appoints-dr-barbara-sampson-chief-medical-examiner

    In case you wish to provide video evidence that Mr. Garner was merely tackled in a non-life-threatening way, here’s a link you can forward to her: http://time.com/3016326/eric-garner-video-police-chokehold-death/

    I’m sure I speak for truth seekers everywhere in wishing you two medical scientists all success in effectuating a reversal of the travesty of justice that is Dr. Sampson’s pseudo-scientific and politically pandering report.

  3. @Teaching Spastics to Dance, September 26, 2016 at 11:14 am
    “Addiction is not a disease, but a behavioral problem.
    “I made the acquaintance once of a social worker whose job was trying to straighten out alcoholics and drug addicts. He said he had two allies: banks and the criminal justice system. ‘Banks – they don’t care about your problems. They just want their money.’ As for the criminal justice system, ‘It has one virtue. Once it gets you in its maw, it comes after you and after you until it is DONE with you’. Both, he said, the addict face to face with a reality he is at pains to avoid. The numbnutzes yapping about the ‘war on drugs’ and ‘mass incarceration’ are all for taking away from Mr. Social Worker the allies he has.”

    With background “allies” like the banks and the criminal justice system, drug addicts most assuredly do not need any enemies.

    As to the “numbnutzes yapping about the ‘war on drugs’ and mass incarceration…”, critics of the War on (Some) Drugs* hardly suffer by comparison with the stupified authoritarians who mindlessly support the concommitant war on Americans’ civili liberties:

    “Because the war on drugs has never been about drugs.

    “No, the war on drugs, since its very beginning, has been about controlling political power – by breaking up Black communities and the dissident left.

    “And we know that because the people who have been involved, the architects and the leaders in the war on drugs, have admitted it – even bragged about it!

    “Before he died, Nixon counsel and former assistant to the president, John Ehrlichman, told author Dan Baum that:
    ” ‘The Nixon Campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and Black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.’
    http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34217-the-big-lie-on-the-war-against-drugs

    “With the War on Drugs, however, the wisdom of the Founders has been cast aside. In their shortsighted zeal to create a ‘Drug-Free America’ by 1995,[4] our political leaders—state and federal, elected and appointed—have acted as though the end justifies the means, repudiating our heritage of limited government and individual freedoms while endowing the bureaucratic state with unprecedented powers.

    “That the danger to our freedom is real and not just a case of crying wolf is confirmed by the warnings of a few judges, liberals and conservatives alike, who, insulated from elective politics, have the independence to be critical. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, denounced compulsory urinalysis of Customs Service employees ‘in the front line’ of the War on Drugs as an ‘invasion of their privacy and an affront to their dignity.'[5]

    “In another case, Justice John Paul Stevens lamented that ‘this Court has become a loyal foot soldier’ in the War on Drugs.[6] For his part, Justice Thurgood Marshall was moved to remind the Court that there is ‘no drug exception to the Constitution.[7]

    “But these have been futile dissents. In a rare majority opinion, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared that “…[t]he drug crisis does not license the aggrandizement of governmental power in lieu of civil liberties. Despite the devastation wrought by drug trafficking in communities nationwide, we cannot suspend the precious rights guaranteed by the Constitution in an effort to fight the ‘War on Drugs.'[8]

    “In that observation, the court echoed a ringing dissent of the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court: ‘If the zeal to eliminate drugs leads this state and nation to forsake its ancient heritage of constitutional liberty, then we will have suffered a far greater injury than drugs ever inflict upon us. Drugs injure some of us. The loss of liberty injures us all.'[9] [Emphasis added]

    “Unfortunately, those warnings are cries in the wilderness, unable to stop the relentless buildup of law enforcement authority at every level of government. In fact, the trend toward greater police powers has only accelerated; one summary of the Supreme Court’s 1990-91 term observed that its criminal law decisions ‘mark the beginning of significant change in the relationship between the citizens of this country and its police.‘[10] [Emphasis added]

    “Despite such warnings, most Americans have yet to appreciate that the War on Drugs is necessarily a war on the rights of all of us. [Emphasis added] It could not be otherwise, for it is directed not against inanimate drugs but against people—those who are suspected of using, dealing in, or otherwise being involved with illegal drugs.

    “Because the drug industry arises from the voluntary transactions of tens of millions of people—all of whom try to keep their actions secret—the aggressive law enforcement schemes that constitute the war must aim at penetrating the private lives of those millions. And because nearly anyone may be a drug user or seller of drugs or an aider and abettor of the drug industry, virtually everyone has become a suspect. All must be observed, checked, screened, tested, and admonished—the guilty and innocent alike.

    “The tragic irony is that while the War on Drugs has failed completely to halt the influx of cocaine and heroin, both of which are cheaper, purer, and more abundant than ever,[11] the one success it can claim is in curtailing the liberty and privacy of the American people. In just 10 years, Americans have suffered a marked reduction in their freedoms in ways both obvious and subtle. [Emphasis added]

    “Among the grossest of indicators is that the war leads to the arrest of an estimated 1.2 million suspected drug offenders each year, most for simple possession or petty sale.[12] Because both arrest rates and incarceration rates rose for drug offenders throughout the 1980s, the war has succeeded dramatically in increasing[13] our full-time prison population. That has doubled since 1982 to more than 800,000,[14] giving the United States the highest rate of incarceration in the industrialized world.[15]” [These numbers have increased dramatically since this was published.]
    http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/society-suspects-war-drugs-civil-liberties

    *According to the Centers for Disease Control, 106,000 Americans die in hospitals annually from the adverse effects of FDA-approved prescription medications taken as prescribed.

  4. @Teaching Spastics to Dance, September 26, 2016 at 11:14 am
    “The numbnutzes yapping about the ‘war on drugs’ and ‘mass incarceration’ are all for taking away from Mr. Social Worker the allies [bankers and the criminal justice system] he has.”

    I thought even low-information voters were aware of how generally “good” for the denizens of Main Street that Wall Street has been, but that’s apparently still not true of everyone. Regarding the salutary effects of the US criminal justice system on drug users, see below some facts regarding drug offenses and mass incarceration in the US and what Dancing Instructor approvingly describes as follows: “As for the criminal justice system, it has one virtue. Once it gets you in its maw, it comes after you and after you until it is DONE with you.”

    The sources of the statistics provided by the Drug Policy Alliance, below, are noted in the original, which I’ve omitted in this otherwise verbatim excerpt:

    The Drug War, Mass Incarceration, and Race

    February 2016

    With less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its incarcerated population, the United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world, largely due to the war on drugs. Misguided drug laws and harsh sentencing requirements have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for people of color. Although rates of drug use and sales are similar across racial and ethnic lines, black and Latino people are far more likely to be criminalized than white people. [My emphasis]

    The Drug War Drives Mass Incarceration and Racial Disparities in U.S. Judicial Systems
    There were more than 1.5 million drug arrests in the U.S. in 2014. The vast majority, more than 80 percent, were for possession only.

    At year-end 2013, 16 percent of all people in state prison were incarcerated for a drug law violation, of whom nearly 50,000 were incarcerated for possession alone.

    More than 50 percent of people in federal prisons are incarcerated for drug law violations. Almost 500,000 people are behind bars for a drug law violation on any given night in the United States, ten times the total in 1980.

    Drug law violations have been the main driver of new admissions to prison for decades. An analysis by Brookings Institution found that there were more than 3 million admissions to prison for drug offenses between 1993 and 2009 in the United States. In each year during that period, more people were admitted to prisons for drug law violations than violent crimes. During that same time-frame, there were more than 30 million drug arrests. [Emphasis added]

    People of color experience discrimination at every stage of the judicial system and are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, harshly sentenced and saddled with a lifelong criminal record. This is particularly the case for drug law violations. Black people comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, and are consistently documented by the U.S. government to use drugs at similar rates to people of other races.

    But black people comprise 31 percent of those arrested for drug law violations, and nearly 40 percent of those incarcerated in state or federal prison for drug law violations.

    Similarly, Latinos make up 17 percent of the U.S. population, but comprise 20 percent of people in state prisons for drug offenses and 37 percent of people incarcerated in federal prisons for drug offenses.

    In 2013, Latinos comprised almost half (47 percent) of all cases in federal courts for drug offenses.

    National-level data on arrests of people of Latino ethnicity are incomplete. Yet among drug arrest incidents in 2014 in which ethnicity was reported, more than 22 percent of those arrested were Latino.

    State and local level data show that Latinos are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated for drug possession violations.

    Nearly 80 percent of people in federal prison and almost 60 percent of people in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino.

    Widely adopted in the 1980s and ‘90s, mandatory minimum sentencing laws have contributed greatly to the number of people of color behind bars.

    Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with the same offense.

    Among people who received a mandatory minimum sentence in 2011, 38 percent were Latino and 31 percent were black.

    Mass Incarceration Destroys Families
    2.7 million children are growing up in U.S. households in which one or more parents are incarcerated. Two-thirds of these parents are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, including a substantial proportion who are incarcerated for drug law violations. One in nine black children has an incarcerated parent, compared to one in 28 Latino children and one in 57 white children.

    Collateral Consequences of Mass Incarceration
    Punishment for a drug law violation is not only meted out by the criminal justice system, but is also perpetuated by policies denying child custody, voting rights, employment, business loans, licensing, student aid, public housing and other public assistance to people with criminal convictions. Criminal records often result in deportation of legal residents or denial of entry for non-citizens trying to visit the U.S. Even if a person does not face jail or prison time, a drug conviction often imposes a lifelong ban on many aspects of social, economic and political life.

    Such exclusions create a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans, and, like drug war enforcement itself, fall disproportionately on people of color. Nearly eight percent of black people of voting age are denied the right to vote because of laws that disenfranchise people with felony convictions.
    http://www.drugpolicy.org/resource/drug-war-mass-incarceration-and-race

    Were he still with us, I’m sure ol’ Bull Connor would be as proud as Joe Arpaio must surely be, not to mention a few of the regular commenters here at the good professor’s blog.

  5. Man, it’s a good thing this young woman enjoys favored status as a black person, or she could have been looking at a possibly draconian beat-down by Alaska’s very criminal justice system:

    “Greene quickly became a full-time cannabis advocate, working to help Alaskans access pot after the state became the third in the US to legalize recreational pot in November 2014.

    “But despite the voter-approved initiative, Alaska has not helped her start a legitimate marijuana operation. On the contrary, the state launched a series of undercover operations and raids at her club, ultimately charging her with eight serious criminal offenses of ‘misconduct involving a controlled substance.’

    “If convicted, she could face 24 [later upgraded to 54] years behind bars. ’It’s almost dizzying when you try to make sense of it,’ Greene said in an exclusive interview with the Guardian about her upcoming trial.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/28/charlo-greene-alaska-cannabis-club-reporter-marijuana

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