Parish: Tangipahoa

Police Department: Hammond Police Department

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, alongside Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP, represented Mr. Timothy Watkins, a Black man severely injured during his arrest on a minor shoplifting charge. During his arrest, Mr. Watkins—who was unarmed, fully cooperative, and posed no threat or risk of flight—pleaded with the arresting officer to handcuff him from the front rather than the back to avoid exacerbating his severe sciatica. The officer callously and unjustifiably ignored Mr. Watkins’ pleas, and he was left handcuffed in a twisted, bent-over position for over 30 minutes while he was driven to the police station. As he had feared, this acutely aggravated his medical condition, causing debilitating long-term pain that has left him unable to perform even basic household chores. He also suffered emotional distress and persistent fear arising out of the incident.

The complaint alleged the arresting officer, as well as six bystander officers who failed to intervene, used excessive force in violation of Mr. Watkins’ Fourth Amendment rights. The complaint also alleged various state law claims, including assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Claims were also brought against the city of Hammond, Louisiana, for failure to train, supervise and discipline its officers concerning excessive force. The complaint sought damages for the physical, financial, and emotional harm that Mr. Watkins suffered from the use of excessive force against him.

In Spring 2023, the parties reached an agreement to settle these claims. About the settlement, the ACLU of Louisiana Justice Lab Staff Attorney Bridget Wheeler stated, “We’re hopeful that every law enforcement officer in Louisiana will view this lawsuit as a sign that civilian complaints about police violence must be taken seriously. We are pleased to take a small but significant step in that direction.” A press release issued by the ACLU of Louisiana after settlement can be found here.

The defendants in the case were:

  • Officer Anthony Fox, an officer with the Hammond Police Department
  • Six John Doe officers with the Hammond Police Department
  • The City of Hammond, Louisiana

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