ROANOKE, Va. (CN) - A man who suffers from acid reflux says Roanoke Sheriff's officers arrested and beat him because they were annoyed by his "excessive burping." Thomas Vandegrift says he was beaten in his jail cell after being arrested on a charge of drunken driving.
Vandegrift says his acid reflux causes him to burp a lot. He claims that "the arresting officer became irritated with Mr. Vandegrift as a result of the excessive burping, and Mr. Vandegrift was taken before a magistrate. When Mr. Vandegrift continued with the excessive burping before the magistrate, he was charged with 'refusing a breath analysis' and [was] taken to the Roanoke City Jail.
There, he says, he was needlessly beaten by sheriff's deputies.
"Mr. Vandegrift was taken into a cell by several deputies. Upon information and belief, these deputies were Defendants [Brandon] Young and John Does. Upon reaching the cell, he was assaulted by Defendants Young and John Does. His arm was twisted behind his back, and he was forced onto his knees and repeatedly struck. Deputy Jane Doe, an African-American woman, then came into the cell and kneed Mr. Vandegrift in the head two to three times. Mr. Vandegrift was handcuffed throughout the assault. Defendants Young, John and Jane Does then removed the handcuffs, and slammed Mr. Vandegrift into the metal bunk. All of his clothes, except for his boxer shorts, were then removed. Mr. Vandegrift was left alone in the cell, unclothed, until his arraignment, approximately three hours later."
After beating him, he says, the sheriff released him on bond and his parents took him to the Roanoke Memorial Hospital emergency room for treatment of his strains, contusions and bruises.
He says the Roanoke Sheriff Octavia Johnson and her office covered up the incident and refuses to release the police report to him.
Vandegrift demands $3 million in compensatory and punitive damages for excessive force, assault and battery, and civil rights violations.
He is represented by John Fishwick Jr. with Lichtenstein Fishwick.
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