Valdosta, Georgia
(Dmitrijs Kaminskis/Shutterstock)

Black Georgia Man Mistaken As Suspect During Violent Arrest Offered $350,000 in Legal Settlement

A Black man in Georgia who was injured after police violently slammed him to the ground and attempted to arrest him — in what was ultimately a case of mistaken identity — has been offered a $350,000 settlement for the resulting pain and suffering he endured. The case has also led to a new citizen review board created to help oversee local police actions and policies.

The Associated Press has reported that “Antonio Arnelo Smith, 47, sued Valdosta police and other city officials in U.S. District Court a year ago, saying officers used excessive force and violated his civil rights. Body camera footage showed Smith talking cooperatively with a Black police officer on Feb. 8, 2020, as a white officer crept up behind him, pinned Smith’s hands behind his back and slammed him face-first to the ground.”

In the police footage, Smith is heard screaming, “Oh my God, you broke my wrist!” as two additional white Valdosta officers forced him down to the ground and placed him in handcuffs. 

“When an officer told Smith he was being arrested on an outstanding warrant, another [person] immediately interjected that he was the wrong man,” the AP reported. “Officers confronted Smith on a clear, sunny day after a drugstore employee called police to report a man who was harassing customers and asking for money outside. Officers found two suspects nearby who fit the description. They learned one of them had an outstanding arrest warrant. The other was Smith.”

Ashlyn Johnson, a spokeswoman for Valdosta City Hall, confirmed details of the proposed settlement on Friday, June 11, saying, “in exchange for $350,000 and creation of the citizen review board, Smith would drop all claims in his lawsuit.”

Smith’s attorneys, including lawyer Nathaniel Haugabrook, are still reviewing the proposal.

“I imagine, at this point, it will move at lightning speed, in terms of a resolution,” Haugabrook said, adding that Smith just “wants to see all of this behind him.”

Haugabrook said that the creation of a citizen panel to help oversee the Valdosta Police Department was one of Smith’s top priorities when presenting the lawsuit to the city. Additionally, the AP reported that “in a letter to city officials seeking a settlement before the lawsuit was filed, Smith’s attorneys had also asked for $700,000.”

 

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