AP

$350,000 settlement offered in police takedown of wrong man

Jun 11, 2021, 11:45 AM | Updated: 10:41 pm

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Officials of a Georgia city have offered a $350,000 legal settlement to a Black man injured last year when a police officer violently slammed him in the ground, later saying he mistakenly believed the man had an outstanding arrest warrant.

The settlement proposal approved Thursday by the Valdosta City Council also would create a citizen review board to help oversee local police and make policy recommendations.

Antonio Arnelo Smith, 47, sued Valdosta police and other city officials in U.S. District Court a year ago, saying officers used excessive force and violated his civil rights. Body camera footage showed Smith talking cooperatively with a Black police officer on Feb. 8, 2020, as a white officer crept up behind him, pinned Smith’s hands behind his back and slammed him face-first to the ground.

“Oh my God, you broke my wrist!” Smith screamed on the recording as two more white Valdosta officers held him down and handcuffed him. When an officer told Smith he was being arrested on an outstanding warrant, another immediately interjected that he was the wrong man.

A spokeswoman for Valdosta City Hall, Ashlyn Johnson, confirmed the settlement offer Friday. In exchange for $350,000 and creation of the citizen review board, it says, Smith would drop all claims in his lawsuit. Valdosta is in south Georgia just north of the Florida state line.

Nathaniel Haugabrook, one of Smith’s attorneys, said Friday that he was still reviewing the proposal.

“I imagine at this point it will move at lightning speed, in terms of a resolution,” said Haugabrook, adding that Smith “wants to see all of this behind him.”

He said creation of a citizen panel to help oversee the Valdosta Police Department had been Smith’s top priority in the lawsuit. In a letter to city officials seeking a settlement before the lawsuit was filed, Smith’s attorneys had also asked for $700,000.

Filed four months after Smith’s violent encounter with police, the lawsuit came amid a national outcry over police brutality against people of color, sparked by the May 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Officers confronted Smith on a clear, sunny day after a drugstore employee called police to report a man who was harassing customers and asking for money outside. Officers found two suspects nearby who fit the description. They learned one them had an outstanding arrest warrant. The other was Smith.

Attorneys for Lt. Billy Wheeler, the officer seen on camera wrapping Smith in a bear hug and slamming the man to the ground, said in court filings that he mistakenly believed Smith was the wanted man.

Police let Smith go without charges, and he left the scene without waiting for paramedics to arrive.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

6 hours ago

This undated image provided by Mikel Desmond shows his brother Marcus Tessier, who turned up in Dem...

Associated Press

Missing teen with autism found in New Mexico, about 200 miles away from his Arizona home

A missing teen with autism has been found in New Mexico — about 200 miles away from his home in southern Arizona.

7 hours ago

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

1 day ago

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

3 days ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

3 days ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

$350,000 settlement offered in police takedown of wrong man