Sep 17, 2020 9:12 PM

Auditor: Use of force within policy in Kan. woman's arrest

Posted Sep 17, 2020 9:12 PM
Tamiko Mitchell photo <a href="">courtesy WIBW TV</a>
Tamiko Mitchell photo courtesy WIBW TV

TOPEKA, KS – The Independent Police Auditor has concluded his investigation into the use of force incident regarding Tamiko Mitchell and the Topeka Police Department.

After a thorough review of officer statements, witness statements, and seven body worn camera videos, the Independent Police Auditor has concluded that the use of force was within policy, according to a media release from the city of Topeka. 

According to the report, just after 10p.m., August 23, a Topeka Police Department Sergeant stopped a white Scion for running a red light at 10th and Gage in Topeka, according to the IPA report. Footage from the police body worn camera shows the Scion facing north on Gage in the left turn lane to turn west.

It is observed in the video that the light for all northbound traffic was red. The Scion makes the left turn while the traffic light was red.

Sergeant made contact with the driver and only occupant of the Scion . Initial contact was made via the passenger side door. Sergeant opened the door and advised the driver why she was being stopped.

The Sergeant then asked the driver for a driver’s license. The driver indicated she did not have one.  The Sergeant inquired as to driver’s name and if the vehicle was registered in her name.

The driver acknowledged that it was registered in her name. With that information, the Sergeant closed the door and  returned to his patrol unit. The Sergeant ran the driver’s name and began working on the citation.

The Sergeant then learned that the driver had two active warrants through Topeka Municipal Court. The Sergeant contacted an officer in the area to respond as back up.

The Sergeant briefed the Officer on the situation and forthcoming arrest related to active warrants.

The Sergeant and Officer approached the vehicle. The Sergeant opened the driver’s side door and initiated a conversation with the driver, asking her to shut the vehicle off and requesting her to exit the vehicle.

The driver acknowledged that she had city warrants and was going to jail. The sergeant asked driver to exit the vehicle multiple times. There was also conversation relating to the keys of the vehicle and about the Sergeant contacting the driver’s daughter to pick up the vehicle.

The driver removed her seat belt and began exiting the vehicle when the Sergeant grabbed the driver’s left wrist/forearm area.  The driver seemed to take offense to this and quickly objected to the Sergeant’s grasping her left arm. The driver brought her arms in front of her, with her fists clenched up to chest area facing the Sergeant. During this time, the Sergeant and driver are having a verbal back and forth, the driver stating that the Sergeant did not give her a chance to comply and  the Sergeant ordering the driver to turn around and put her hands behind her back.

The Sergeant summons the assistance of the Officer, asking the officer to grab the driver’s left arm. The verbal back and forth between the driver and Sergeant continues throughout the entirety of this apprehension process. As they continue attempting to arrest the the driver, the driver continues to avoid handcuffing and exclaiming that the Sergeant did not give her an opportunity to comply. The trio moves from being next to the driver’s side door to the rear of driver’s vehicle.

Here, officers continue trying to gain control and compliance from the driver.

The officer was able to get the driver’s left hand in cuffs; however, the driver slipped out of the officers’ control leading to her left arm being loose with the handcuff attached to her left wrist. The Sergeant informed the officer to hold off. The Sergeant then placed his arms through the driver’s armpits and up to the back of the driver’s head where both of Sergeant’s hands were behind the driver’s head, effectively locking the driver’s arms in an upward position. At this point, the parties are facing toward the west.

The Sergeant turned the driver in a counter clockwise direction until they were facing east, they moved to their left (north) until they reached the edge of the sidewalk where the sergeant then spun the driver around and down onto the grassy area between the sidewalk and the street. The driver went down (face down) with the Sergeant’s upper torso going down on top of the driver’s torso area.

While on the ground, the Sergeant and Officer were still trying to cuff the driver, with the driver continuing to indicate the Sergeant did not give her the opportunity to comply. The officers were finally able to handcuff the driver, stand her up and place her in a patrol vehicle. AMR was summonsed for an injury to the driver’s right eye. Ultimately, the driver was transported to the hospital by a 3rd officer (hereinafter Officer

2) that was summoned by the watch commander (hereinafter Lieutenant), who also responded to the scene and did the administrative use of force interview with the driver.

The body worn camera video will be released to the public pending criminal proceedings, according to the city of Topeka.

Driver’s description of the encounter:

Driver states that she was going to pick her daughter up because she did not have a ride. Driver was near 10th and Gage, there was a car in front of her waiting to turn left and she was stuck behind that car in the middle of the intersection. The police was right behind her and she was in the middle of the intersection. The officer (Sergeant) turned on his lights as soon as she made her turn. He asked where she was headed, and Driver explained that she was going to pick up her daughter a block and a half away from where they were. Officer told her she ran a red light and she explained that she was in the middle of the intersection. He then advised her that the other vehicle ran the light as well. He asked for ID and Driver explained that she didn’t bring it with her. He then asked her for her name and she gave it to him. She then waited in the car while he went back to his vehicle. He then returned and opened her driver’s side door and asked her to turn off the vehicle twice. Driver complied and turned vehicle off. Driver knew that her driver’s license was suspended so she asked the officer if her daughter could pick up the car. Driver and the officer had a conversation about possibly calling her daughter to pick up car. The officer asked Driver to exit the vehicle twice; she advised him that she did not have a problem getting out. She began to get out of the vehicle. She indicates that she was getting out slowly due to medical reasons. As soon as she exited the vehicle, the officer twisted her arm. Driver advised the officer that she would turn around, that it wasn’t necessary for him to grab her that she would do it. Officer stated that she should have done it and that she replied that he had not given her a chance to comply. Driver was then placed in a “full nelson” where she couldn’t move. Officer then swung the Driver around and slammed her to the ground with the officer landing on top of her. Driver described herself as being mad and the officer not caring. Driver told officer to go to hell. Driver was then taken to the patrol car and knew she could not see out of her right eye. Driver indicates she said, “you fucked my eye up”, and that the officer replied, “yeah”. Driver stated that the entire right side of her body was in pain, that she had been diagnosed with a mass on her kidney and that her arm was slipping out of place and that’s why she wanted to turn around herself and was then dislocated during this incident. Driver then saw the ambulance and that both the male and female medics spoke to her. The male medic indicated that she needed to go to the hospital. That the officer then opened the door and watched the Driver the entire time while she was being diagnosed. That the EMT would look at her then look at the officer. When Driver began explaining to the EMT what had happened that the officer screamed that she (Driver) didn’t have to tell them (EMT’s) her story. That Driver then told the officer that he knew that what you did was wrong. That officer stated, “she looks fine to me” and slammed the door. Driver wanted to go to the hospital, even if she went to jail later. Driver does not understand why she was not allowed to go in the ambulance. Driver yelled that she wanted a supervisor and the officer told her that one was coming. Driver explained to the supervisor (Lieutenant) that she was not against the police and felt that if you “do the crime then you do the time”. She stated that the officer did not have to do that to her, that she was hurt and wanted to turn around herself but the officer didn’t give her the chance. The supervisor got her out of the patrol vehicle, introduced her to another officer (Officer 2), her handcuffs were loosened and she was taken to the hospital. At the hospital, she was wheel chaired in and was there for 2-3 hours. That she was diagnosed with a fractured nose and bleeding behind her right eye. That a specialist was called and the doctor arranged for Driver to be seen at KU Med in Kansas City. The officer then gave her the ticket from the arresting officer and placed it in her pocket. The officer removed the handcuffs and told Driver she was free to go. Driver was wheeled out to her family and was told to go to KU due to the bleeding behind her eye. Driver went to KU and was treated, she was told that the bleeding was caused by the fractured nose and that so long as the nostrils are open that she would not  require surgery and she should get her eye sight back. Driver reiterated that there was no reason for the officer to think that she was not going to cooperate, that the officer hurt her permanently and should have let her get help. That she heard the officer talk to someone over the radio and said that she just had a “little goose egg”. That the officer told EMTs that she did not have life threatening injuries and they just drove away. That the officer didn’t care that she was just sitting there bleeding. That she was in pain and was not trying to fight, that all she had on was a sundress and flip-flops, that it was not necessary.

**Driver gave her statement in IPA’s office with her attorneys being present**

Summary of Witness Statements:

Two witnesses, (hereinafter W1 and W2) who were parked directly across the street, gave their account of events. Following is a summary of their statements to Lieutenant Jones. The IPA has reviewed the audio recording of these interviews:

W1 – They were on their way home from Dillon’s when they observed the traffic stop and parked in the parking lot facing north to observe. W1 saw Sergeant exit his patrol vehicle and approach the white vehicle along with Officer. W1 observed Sergeant having a discussion with the Driver. W1 described Driver as “staggering” out of the vehicle and pulling away from officers. W1 saw Driver continue to pull away as she had one hand in handcuffs. W1 saw officers pushing Driver into the back of her car trying to handcuff her. Then she observed Sergeant take down Driver and screaming by Driver. W1 describes the sequence of additional arrivals as; TFD, AMR, Watch Commander (Lieutenant), another patrol officer (Officer 2) and tow truck. W1 does not believe that any police actions were racially motivated, she thought Driver was drunk. W1 described Driver as “yelling and belligerent”.

W2 – Officers approached the vehicle, noticed Driver pulling back when officers were trying to arrest her. They walked to the back of Driver’s vehicle. W2 observed that the officers were struggling to handcuff Driver as she turned facing the officers. When trying to arrest Driver by the car didn’t work, they moved to the rear of the car. W-2 described the interaction at the back of the car as being able to see the car moving because they were pushing her violently against the car and she was pushing violently back. He heard Officer state “stop resisting”, then saw Sergeant do a controlled take down. W2 describes hearing a “cracking noise” which he believes may have been Driver’s face hitting the ground. He believes Driver was taken down in the grassy area. After this, he heard Sergeant tell Driver to “stop resisting.” W2 observed that officers were finally able to handcuff Driver, and Driver was still yelling at officers. W2 also heard a thumping noise from inside the patrol car where Driver was placed. He indicates, “I don’t know if she was hitting her head or something.” He indicates that Driver did not appear intoxicated, just someone who didn’t want to go to jail. W2 described the encounter as a “textbook arrest,” and that officers gave her every opportunity to stop resisting. W2 does not belief that Driver was treated differently because of race or that any actions were racially motivated.