The ACLU of the Nation’s Capital on May 8, 2013 filed two lawsuits against Metro Transit Police Officers who, in separate incidents, assaulted two 14-year-old children and then charged them with assault on a police officer.
Tiffany Hall alleges that her son, J.H., had been attacked by a local bully at the Minnesota Avenue bus station in June 2012, and was defending himself, when Metro Transit Police Officers Tierra Wood and L. McCoy came upon the scene and stopped the fight. But when J.H. attempted to continue on his way home from school, the officers put him in a chokehold — considered lethal force under D.C. law — punched him and sprayed him with pepper spray. The officers then arrested J.H. and charged him with assault on a police officer. J.H. was transported by ambulance to Children’s National Medical Center for treatment. At the time of the incident, J.H. was 14 years old and weighed approximately 90 pounds. The lawsuit alleges that seven weeks after the incident, the officers created “Use of Force” reports claiming that J.H. had reached for Officer Wood’s duty belt, in an attempt to justify their own violence. A D.C. Superior Court judge dismissed the charge against J.H. after hearing from the government’s only witness, Officer Wood.
In the second suit, Stacey Winslow, on behalf of her daughter A.K., alleges that Metro Transit Police Officer L. Taylor struck A.K. in the head with a closed fist while arresting her for an alleged curfew violation in January 2013 at the Stadium-Armory Metro Station. The lawsuit alleges that while A.K. was handcuffed and waiting to be transported, she stood up after another officer told her she could. Officer Taylor then tackled her, repeatedly slammed her head into the side of a bus shelter and struck her several more times in the face, according to the complaint. At the time of the incident, A.K. was 14 years old and weighed approximately 100 pounds. She was treated at the emergency room where she was referred to a concussion specialist, and was later diagnosed with an “intercranial injury.” She was charged with assault on a police officer and disorderly conduct, but the District of Columbia dismissed the charges prior to trial.
“These incidents show a troubling pattern of extreme and wholly unjustified violence toward children by Metro Transit Police officers, followed by unsubstantiated charges in an attempt to justify their actions,” said Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital.
Both lawsuits seek damages under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the District of Columbia.