By Sheryl Estrada
Jason Goolsby, a Washington, D.C., college student who was forcibly detained by police because he made a white woman feel “uncomfortable” while using an ATM last October, is suing the District for $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
According to Goolsby’s lawsuit, an officer threatened to use pepper spray on him if he refused to get on the ground. It also states that he ran from officers because he had done nothing wrong and he was scared. Officers later determined no crime was committed and Goolsby was released. He is also suing the police officers involved and the police dispatcher.
An internal review released by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department on November 25 said that an officer’s use of force to detain Goolsby, age 18 at the time, was justified.
On the day of his arrest, Goolsby’s attorney Peter Grenier saidhis client asked the officers what he had done and why this had happened. The officer, who “originally tried to run him over, chased him and almost broke his arm said this, ‘A woman called and said that you made her feel ‘uncomfortable.'”
A screenshot of cell phone video that captured Jason Goolsby’s detainment by police on Oct. 12, 2015.
The D.C. police did not wear body cameras. The only available footage of the incident iscell phone videoGoolsby, a student at the University of the District of Columbia, tweeted on Twitter after he was released from the police.
The video shows him on the ground screaming in pain as a police officer twists his arm behind his back to handcuff him. Michael Brown, a then high school student, recorded the video.It went viral and prompted the hashtag #JusticeforJason.
On October 12, 2015, Goolsby, Brown and another friend had just completed an orientation and volunteer training to help troubled youth. They walked to Citibank so Goolsby, a musician, could use the ATM to withdraw money to pay for a recording session later that evening.
According to Grenier, Goolsby received a text message telling him the session had been canceled, so he was contemplating whether or not to take out funds. Goolsby saw a family of three coming in to use the ATM and thought they might need help getting the stroller through the door.
“So [Goolsby]went over and held the door open for them,” Grenier said during a press conference last October. “Seconds later he heard the woman say to her husband that she had forgotten something in her car. The family left and no words were exchanged between Jason and his friends and any members of the family.”
The transcripts of the woman’s 911 call were released and said, in part:
Caller:”Hi yes, umm, I want to report that there are 3, umm, teenagers in the Citibank on Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh that are waiting at the door to let people in, but aren’t doing anything inside of the bank. Uh, we just left but we felt like if we had taken money out we might’ve gotten robbed. Umm, so”
911 operator:”For verification, repeat that location for me.”
Caller:”It’s uh, Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street I’m sorry Sixth Street. Pennsylvania and Sixth; Citibank on Pennsylvania and Sixth South.”
911 operator:”You said it’s three of them”
Caller:”There is three, yeah three adolescences hanging out inside of the ATM section of the bank.”
911 operator:”Okay, we’ll have the police respond out. Were you able to get a description of any of them”
Caller:”Uhh, three umm African American boys with uhh like flat-top haircuts. One was about five-seven; one was about five-eleven. One had metal work in his teeth, umm all three had backpacks.”
According to the police department’s internal investigation report, the dispatcher made an error when reporting the call to officers:
“The Office of United Communications Dispatcher working the First District Radio Zone voiced information to the responding units that these subjects may have been robbing people in the area. [Unnamed police officer] after hearing this information, clarified to the other responding units that these subjects were just suspicious and not wanted for robbery.”
Michael Brown, left, and Jason Goolsby, right, with Peter Grenier, Goolsby’s attorney, at a news conference on Oct. 15, 2015.
When Goolsby left the ATM to catch a bus, he saw a white police SUV “driving at a high speed directly towards him and he jumped up on the curb to avoid being struck by the SUV.”
Grenier said a white officer got out of the car and approached Goolsby with one hand on his pepper spray and one hand on his gun.
He told Goolsby to get down on the ground or he would pepper spray him. Grenier said Goolsby responded that he didn’t do anything wrong.
Former D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said in a statement last October that the woman was right to call police, the officers were right in the way they responded and the encounter would have ended differently if Goolsby had not run from officers. In September, Lanier left her position of almost 10 years to take over as head of security for the National Football League.
As a young, Black male living in the inner city not far from the place ofFreddie Gray’spolice-related death in Baltimore, Goolsby said he ran because he feared for his life.
In September, a ruling by The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court indicated when a Black man flees from police he might not be hiding criminal activity, but rather reacting to increased incidents of racial profiling.