'Contempt' for Not Standing on a Broken Leg
RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) - A man who was eating a taco at a Raleigh bus stop says a cop swept-kicked him to the ground, broke his leg and arrested him, then hauled him before a judge who sentenced him to 30 days in jail for contempt, because he could not stand on his broken leg.
Lynwood Earl Artis sued Raleigh police Officer James Rollins, Wake County and its sheriff, and others, in Federal Court.
Artis said that after buying his dinner at the Armadillo Grill, he "quietly began to eat his taco, waiting for the bus," when Rollins "approached Artis on foot ... and asked if a beer was his."
"Artis leaned forward and saw what appeared to be a discarded can of beer that had been concealed from his view" by a newspaper rack. He says he told Rollins, "'Why, Officer, if that beer were mine, I would be enjoying it with my meal.'" And he resumed eating his taco.
He says Rollins asked him for ID, then "Without either warning or being told he was under arrest, Rollins grabbed Artis by his still taco-laden arm, and spun Artis around with great force, which pivoted Artis on his left leg and sent the hapless taco flying.
"Rollins twisted Artis' arm behind his back and then swept-kicked Artis' legs from the side and threw him to the ground.
"All of Artis' weight was still on his left leg from being spun by Rollins, and Artis felt and heard his lower left leg sicken[ing]ly crack when Rollins swept-kicked him."
Artis adds that he "was not in possession of a deadly weapon; he was, however, in legal and actual possession of a taco, which Artis did not wield in any threatening manner."
Artis was taken to the Wake County Detention Center, where, unable to get out of the car on his own, and at his own insistence, he was put into a wheelchair. He was charged with "misdemeanor open container malt beverage and disorderly conduct," then wheeled before a magistrate at 10:10 p.m. It was Sept. 11, 2010.
He says sheriff's deputies "continued to heckle" him as he was wheeled into court - they told him there was nothing wrong with him. Artis told the judge that "he could not stand because his leg was broken." He was "in serious and intense pain because of his shattered leg, was confused as to why he had been arrested, was extremely frustrated by the heckling, that no one believed he was seriously hurt, and that he was not getting urgently needed medical attention."
It took Magistrate Bostrom 4 minutes to find Artis in contempt of court and sentence him to 30 days in jail, with no bond, Artis said. Eleven minutes later, Bostrom agreed to set bond at $1,000, according to the complaint.
Artis spent the night in jail without medical attention and, says that "several times during Artis' stay in the holding cell he had to urinate on the floor where he lay" because jailers would not bring him a wheelchair.
Nearly 12 hours after he was arrested, a nurse finally inspected his leg and "observed ... that Artis' left leg could not bear weight; that his left knee and lower leg area was swollen and deformed; and that parasthesia was noted." The nurse ordered him to be sent immediately to a hospital emergency room.
Artis had pins inserted in his leg and "awoke from surgery to find his belongings next to his hospital bed and a nurse informed him that he was no longer in custody."
He says that Officer Rollins refused to testify at the trial and all charges were dropped, "with a note in the file stating that 'Rollins said he will not testify b/c he does not recall incident.'"
Artis seeks punitive damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, battery, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is represented by Eric Doggett and Gregory Kash of Raleigh and Billy Strickland II of Goldsboro.