On January 15, attorneys representing Marcus Deon Smith’s family filed a motion to compel Greensboro City to post Body-Worn Camera (BWC) videos of previous cases by Greensboro police officers using the type of restraint with which Smith was killed. The letter accompanying this petition states that several officers named as defendants in the Smith family’s civil rights suit were involved in numerous previous incidents involving the controversial device, including one that occurred hours before Smith’s death.
As previously reported, Smith died after being handcuffed by eight GPD officers whom he approached and asked to take him to the hospital. That incident occurred on September 8, 2018 on Church Street in downtown Greensboro. YES! The weekly investigation found that the RIPP hobble machine used at Smith is usually tagged with instructions to “NEVER HOG-TIE” a prisoner (all caps in the original warning).
Despite this warning, officers threw Smith on the sidewalk, held him face down, attached the RIPP Hobble to his ankles, and forcibly lifted his feet behind his back at an angle greater than 90 degrees and handcuffed his ankles, while Smith screamed desperately. Smith was left in the concealed position until officers noticed that he had gone limp, unresponsive, and apparently stopped breathing. Rescue workers did not attempt CPR until several minutes later after Smith was loaded into their ambulance. The state coroner ruled Smith’s death was murder, but the officers were never disciplined.
The civil rights lawsuit filed in April 2019 by Greensboro attorney Graham Holt and Flint Taylor of the Chicago People’s Law Firm was named as a defendant by the City of Greensboro. GPD officers Justin Payne, Robert Duncan, Michael Montalvo, Alfred Lewis, Christopher Bradshaw, Lee Andrews, Douglas Strader, and Jordan Bailey; and Paramedics Ashley Abbott and Dylan Alling of Guilford County. As previously reported, last October, Strader was fired for a subsequent incident of excessive violence, Andrews resigned and Montalvo withdrew. The other five officers are still on duty.
The motion to force post other BWC videos depicting previous uses of the restriction is based on plaintiff’s Monell lawsuit against the City of Greensboro. The Monell Doctrine states that a plaintiff can sue a civil servant’s local employer for policies or practices that provoke unconstitutional wrongdoing by his civil servants.
The coercion motion alleges that the City of Greensboro:
. . . Its officers have failed to adequately train the use of hogtie restraint systems, including the fact that Greensboro has not, according to its own regulations, trained its officers on whether, under what circumstances, and / or how hogtie restraint devices to tie their hands and A subject’s feet are used together behind his or her back, especially when in a prone position; and in the dangers of using hogtie restraints, especially for people whose physical and mental condition makes them particularly vulnerable to the lethal effects of hogtie restraints.
It also states: “Previous incidents of GPD officers using the RIPP hobble device in dangerous or inappropriate ways on individuals are clearly relevant to notification and notification as part of plaintiffs’ failure to train Monell claims to show intentional indifference. “
That request includes clues as to the number of times GPD officers used the device, which the department banned after Marcus Smith’s death. In response to the plaintiffs’ production request, the city has created “thousands of police reports with over 150 instances” of the device being used on people in custody.
Such reports are said to be “of limited value” because “none of them describe the manner in which the RIPP hobble was used (ie, whether the subject was on the ground; whether the RIPP hobble was used to handcuffing the subject’s hands on their feet and checking whether the subject’s legs were bent at a 90-degree angle to their body). “
It also means:
The fact that the GPD did not require its officers to document the manner in which they used the RIPP hobble device to keep individuals in their care is in and of itself evidence of deliberate indifference . Despite the shortcomings of GPD in this regard, there is evidence of the manner in which the RIPP hobble has been used in previous incidents in the form of body-worn camera (BWC) recordings of officers involved in those incidents. Since the police reports do not describe how the RIPP hobble was used, plaintiffs can only determine this evidence from this BWC footage.
Ian McDowell is the author of two published novels, numerous anthologized short stories, and a plethora of non-fiction and journalism that he is proud of and not ashamed of.