After a handcuffed ride in the back of a police van, a man was paralyzed and had to have his legs amputated, the lawsuit alleges.

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By journalsofus.com




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A man filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging he was paralyzed and needed to have his legs amputated after police officers in St. Petersburg, Florida, restrained him, placed him in the back of a police van without a seat belt and They then drove recklessly. .

Heriberto Alejandro Sánchez-Mayen filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida against the city of St. Petersburg and officers Sarah Gaddis and Michael Thacker. An attorney for Sánchez-Mayen also provided CNN with video from inside the van and from a police body camera showing what led to his arrest, his movement inside the van and the aftermath.

The complaint relates to a June 8, 2023, encounter when Sanchez-Mayen was detained and arrested by Gaddis for trespassing, the lawsuit states.

According to police body camera video, Gaddis approached Sanchez-Mayen, who was lying on a grassy patch, and asked him what he was doing. “I fell asleep,” he replied. At first, Gaddis told Sanchez-Mayen he would give him a ticket, but he later changed his mind, the video shows.

“Are you going to give me a fine?” Sánchez-Mayén asked.

“No, you’re going for the walk today. I have decided that today you will go to jail. “Too many problems with you,” she replied. “We are receiving all kinds of complaints. “I can’t be doing this,” the officer said.

“You get fines all the time. Do not care. “You don’t change your customs,” she explained.

Thacker then arrived at the scene in a police van and restrained Sanchez-Mayen in handcuffs in front of his body using a metal belly chain, which restricted the use of his arms, the lawsuit states.

In the body camera footage, Thacker commented that any crime should be a felony after a certain number of incidents. “A year in jail would probably solve everything,” he added.

Heriberto Alejandro Sánchez-Mayen before arrest.

Thomas Scolaro, Sanchez-Mayen’s attorney, told CNN that his client has “some prior arrests for things like loitering and trespassing” and said he is homeless.

“Alcohol has been a problem his entire life, but it never resulted in violence,” Scolaro said. “If anything, it only hurt him.”

After being handcuffed, Sanchez-Mayen was placed in the back of the truck, where there were no seat belts, according to the lawsuit and video from inside the truck.

Thacker allegedly drove “recklessly and at an unsafe speed,” before suddenly stopping at a supposed red light, the lawsuit states. The forceful stop caused Sánchez-Mayen to be thrown forward and his head to hit a metal partition, according to the lawsuit and the video.

Sanchez-Mayen's head hit a metal partition during the ride, according to the lawsuit and surveillance video from inside the van.

The van’s surveillance video doesn’t capture the entire trip. According to the lawsuit, Thacker initially did not have the truck’s camera enabled, but turned it on after hearing a loud bang from the rear. Scolaro told CNN that the video technology in these cameras records 30 seconds before being enabled.

After driving to the Pinellas County Jail, Thacker opened the rear doors of the van and found Sanchez-Mayen “lying face down, motionless, unresponsive and unresponsive,” the lawsuit states. The officer tried unsuccessfully to wake him up and then dragged his limp body out of the truck, causing Sanchez-Mayen to hit his head on the bumper, door and concrete floor, the lawsuit states.

Sánchez-Mayen suffered spinal cord injuries that left him quadriplegic, or paralyzed in all of his extremities, and resulted in the amputation of both legs above the knee, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that Sanchez-Mayen should not have been arrested in the first place, and notes that the criminal trespass charge was later dismissed by the county court.

Thacker is accused of excessive force and intentional assault, Gaddis is accused of false arrest and malicious prosecution and the city is accused of negligent supervision and training, among other charges, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs asked for a jury trial.

“The St. Petersburg Police Department denies the claims and relies on the judicial process,” police said in a statement. “The Department defers all media inquiries regarding pending litigation to the City of St. Petersburg City Prosecutor’s Office.”

CNN has reached out to the city and officials for further comment.

The incident bears similarities to what is known as a “difficult road” term used to describe police placing a detained person in the back of a pickup truck, without a seat belt, and then driving erratically. The term gained great prominence after the Freddie Gray’s controversial death in 2015 in Baltimore, who suffered serious injuries while being transported in a police van.

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