(Tallahassee.com) -- A shocking dashboard video from a Tallahassee Police Department
vehicle shows officers using strong force as they subdued a 44-year-old
woman who was arrested on DUI after crashing into a house.
video shows one officer slamming Christina West's head into the back of
a TPD vehicle before she is forcefully taken to the ground. The woman,
who suffered a broken orbital bone in her face and other injuries, can
be heard screaming in pain as the officers subdue her.
WATCH: Christina West's DUI arrest (WARNING: Graphic content)
arrest and the use of force by TPD sparked outrage among
prosecutors and others who have seen the video. West's attorney, Fred
Conrad of Tallahassee, is vowing to seek justice for his client, and
city officials are already bracing for the possibility of a major
officers who can be seen on the video subduing West, Chris Ormerod and
Matthew Smidt, have been placed on administrative leave with pay pending
the outcome of an internal-affairs investigation, said Officer Dave
Northway, spokesman for TPD.
Attorney Willie Meggs said he was disturbed by the conduct of officers
at the scene. At least six TPD officers responded to the scene.
"I am extremely upset," Meggs said in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat. "It is very disturbing. This is a very disturbing situation to me, and I'm dealing with it."
city issued a two-page written statement Tuesday night about the arrest
and posted the full 45-minute video of the incident along with a
use-of-force report and other documents on the city website. TPD Chief
Dennis Jones, in the statement, said the department is concerned anytime
someone is injured while in police custody.
"Our job is to serve and protect, and that includes victims and suspects," Jones said. "We regret that Ms. West was injured."
was arrested on a charge of DUI with property damage, three counts of
battery on a law-enforcement officer and one count of assault on a
medical worker after the crash, which happened in the early morning
hours Aug. 10 on Kilkenny Drive West.
Meggs has already dropped assault and battery charges. The DUI case remains open.
Conrad said West, who is 5-foot-6 and 120 pounds, was the victim of police brutality at the hands of TPD officers.
was shocked to see this," he said. "I would never have expected that
out of my police department. And by and large, most of my officers that I
deal with at the Tallahassee Police Department and the Sheriff's Office
are all professional and good cops, folks that I would feel very
comfortable with in the event I needed them as a citizen."
he continued, "This is disturbing. I could not believe that I saw that
happening in Tallahassee, Florida. It's like something you'd see in
Detroit or Los Angeles or some other town. This is Tallahassee."
Jones acknowledged that the video was difficult to watch.
understand that the video is disturbing to watch and it is for us too,"
he said. "We use cameras to help capture events such as this and are
making the entire video available as we continue our internal
In an email obtained by the Democrat,
City Commissioner Scott Maddox wrote City Manager Anita Favors
Thompson, City Attorney Lew Shelley and fellow commissioners voicing
concern about TPD's treatment of West and the possibility that a major
lawsuit will be filed as a result. Maddox, in the email sent Sept. 4,
said he learned about the video from Meggs.
video was taken from the police car and shows the road-side sobriety
test as well as the arrest of the subject," Maddox wrote. "It also shows
DISTURBING use of force against a completely non-aggressive arrestee.
It is my belief that the city of Tallahassee will soon face a
substantial liability lawsuit based on the content of the video."
wrote that he would like Meggs to show the video to each of the
commissioners and that city staff draft a report on what steps should be
Shelley wrote back later that day urging commissioners not to watch the
video or comment on it. The video became public Tuesday morning after
the Democrat obtained a copy from Meggs' office.
"The chief had already opened an internal-affairs investigation on
this matter last week and the investigation is proceeding as quickly as
possible," Shelley wrote in the email to commissioners and appointed
officials. "The criminal case is currently still pending in court."
added that, "At this time, for a variety of reasons, I would advise you
not to review the video or comment on the case. The manager, police
chief and I will advise you as the investigation and the case develops."
Conrad said he intends to pursue justice for West.
can say I intend to pursue just compensation for Ms. West," Conrad
said. "And I can say I intend to do it relentlessly. I intend to make
the Police Department pay for this. This is wrong. And they need to pay
from Maddox, commissioners had little to say about West's arrest. Mayor
John Marks was in Washington, D.C., on city business Tuesday and had not
yet seen the video, said Rick Minor, his chief of staff. Minor said
Marks "wants to allow time for a thorough, complete review before he
makes specific comments about the case."
Nancy Miller, who was returning from North Carolina after her father's
funeral, said she hadn't seen the video. Commissioner Gil Ziffer said he
hadn't watched the video on the advice of the city attorney, though he
planned to speak with the city manager about it today. Commissioner
Andrew Gillum issued a statement on Facebook calling the video
"disturbing" and calling for a full investigation.
a city commissioner, I would like to say more about the situation but
there is a current investigation being conducted into the matter to
determine all the facts," Gillum wrote. "I welcome the inquiry of the Tallahassee Democrat anytime
a claim like this is made in our community. ... Our men and women in
law enforcement do an exceptional job in difficult circumstances to keep
our community safe. The officers involved in this matter deserve a full
investigation uninterrupted by politics."
Jones said officers are trained in how to use force appropriately. But Conrad said the video raises doubts about TPD training.
question the type of training and policies in place at TPD that would
lead officers to believe this type of behavior is acceptable," Conrad
said, "especially in front of two sergeants who were only a few feet
'Thrill' ride led to crash
was arrested after losing control of her Honda CR-V about 2 a.m. and
crashing into the master bedroom of an unoccupied house in the 3500
block of Kilkenny Drive West, according to police reports. In the car
with her were three foreign exchange students she was hosting at her
home in Killearn.
and the students were returning from a trip to Panama City Beach, she
told officers. She said she wanted to give the students a "thrill" by
driving the car fast up a hill, but lost control of the SUV. She said
she had two beers at the beach about 6 p.m. and took prescription pain
pills for a previous back surgery, the report noted.
used her cell phone to report the crash to TPD, but walked away from
the scene with the students. Emergency-medical workers located the group
at East Kilkenny and Limerick drives. When police arrived, she smelled
of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, officers wrote in
performed several field sobriety tests before she was arrested and
placed in the back of a police car, where she repeatedly expressed
concern about her child car seats being left in her crashed SUV. After
she consented to a breath test, officers removed her from the vehicle.
At one point, her hands slipped out of the handcuffs.
officers tried to put her back in handcuffs, they said she became
aggressive. In the report filed by arresting Officer Ormerod the night
of the arrest, he said West "was placed on the ground," when she began
to "thrash and kick wildly." In his supplemental report filed nearly two
weeks later, Ormerod wrote that she was "overcome with force."
2009, Ormerod was cleared by TPD internal-affairs investigation for his
use of a Taser on a 15-year-old who ran away from him during an arrest.
Woman receives 'beating'
None of the reports make any mention of West's face being slammed against the patrol car or her body into the pavement.
don't see her thrashing and kicking wildly," West's attorney Conrad
said. "I see her screaming bloody Mary, screaming so bad because she's
just lost control of her bowels and her bladder."
Conrad added, "If that's 'placing,' I'd like to see what 'slamming' means."
West was taken to the Leon County Jail, deputies said she had to go to
the hospital first. Medical personnel at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
determined West suffered a broken orbital bone, along with a swollen
eye, bloody nose and cuts to her arms and legs.
said the injuries occurred when she was taken down by police. TPD's
traffic crash report said there were no injuries as a result of the
At the TMH
emergency room, the police report said West was belligerent, ignored
orders and at one point tried to wipe her feces on a nurse.
said no matter what she did that night, she didn't deserve the
treatment she received from TPD. Court records show no prior arrests of
good place to live," he said. "We don't need this kind of police
conduct. It's bad. This mother, a nice lady, is injured, beaten. That's a
beating there's no other way to characterize it."
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