HOUSTON (CN) - A U.S. citizen claims a policeman beat and kicked him, shouting, "You are an illegal alien!" during a minor traffic stop, and that other officers hogtied, choked and beat him in jail for asking why he had been arrested.
Hansraj Jathanna sued the Spring Branch Independent School District, the school district's Police Department and "Officer Collum," in Harris County Court.
Jathanna says he passed a car that had stopped in traffic on Feb. 11, 2011, and Officer Collum pulled him over.
"Plaintiff immediately and safely stopped his vehicle, stopping at the closest place to stop and park. Plaintiff rolled down his window and waited for the officer," the complaint states. "The officer operating the police car was defendant Collum of the Spring Branch ISD Police Department.
"Officer Collum approached plaintiff and yelled 'Have you been drinking?' Plaintiff replied 'No.'
"Officer Collum then yelled at plaintiff to get out of his car. In addition, the officer ordered plaintiff to face his vehicle and put his hands behind his back. To both orders, plaintiff complied.
"Officer Collum continued to stand behind plaintiff and to yell at him. One of the things Officer Collum shouted was: 'You are an illegal alien.'
"Plaintiff responded to Officer Collum that he was a United States citizen.
"It was at this point that Officer Collum told plaintiff that he was under arrest."
Jathanna says he asked Collum why he was being arrested, as Collum had not issued him a ticket or told him that he had broken any law.
"Officer Collum asked plaintiff if he wanted to resist arrest," the complaint states.
"Plaintiff thought this odd, but responded that he was not resisting arrest."
In fact, Jathanna said, he had complied with all of Collum's orders. But he says, "Officer Collum continued to yell at plaintiff, asking plaintiff if he wanted to resist arrest.
"At some point, Officer Collum forcefully pushed and slammed plaintiff onto the concrete sidewalk, injuring plaintiff's face, temple, nose and knees.
"Officer Collum continued the unlawful and unauthorized use of force and proceeded to jump and punch plaintiff on his back, then kicked him in his right rib area and then, with more indignity and humiliation, sat on him.
"Officer Collum then handcuffed plaintiff and left him lying face down on the pavement while Officer Collum called for backup on his radio.
"Several police vehicles arrived at the scene and four Spring Branch ISD police officers stood around plaintiff, in a tight circle, where he continued to lay face down on the ground/pavement.
"Plaintiff was subsequently taken to the Spring Branch ISD Police station, where the officers photographed and finger printed him. All the while, plaintiff was not given any traffic citation."
Jathanna says the police eventually told him he was being charged with "Interference with Public Duties."
Jathanna says that "after the passage of hours" at the Spring Branch ISD Police station, he became "upset and agitated and began knocking on his cell door."
The complaint continues: "At this point, four ISD police officers burst into his cell, pushed plaintiff's face down onto the floor, and put him in a choke hold. All the while, a second officer stood on him placing his boot on his back. A third officer tied plaintiff's hands behind his back with plastic straps. A fourth officer bound his feet together with plastic straps. This was all done for plaintiff's knocking on his cell door and wanting to know why he was arrested and wanting to make a phone call to call his wife.
"The four officers apparently recognized that they had injured him. An ambulance was called for him.
"Plaintiff, untrusting to the police at this point (though injured) refused any treatment from the ambulance attendant because he did not know whom to trust at that point.
"From plaintiff's treatment in his cell, he suffered cuts to his wrists and feet from the force used and the plastic straps cutting into his flesh. Plaintiff, for a period of 3 months, did not have any sensation in his left hand because the strap was bound so tightly it affected tissue, veins and nerves in his left wrist and hand." (Parentheses in original.)
Jathanna says he was transferred to the Harris County Jail later that night, and the next morning he was taken before a magistrate judge, who informed him that he had been charged with the two misdemeanor offenses of "interference with public duties and resisting arrest."
Jathanna bonded out of jail on Feb. 12.
"To complain of his treatment, Friday, February 18, 2011, plaintiff contacted the Community Relations Department at Spring Branch ISD's Administration Office and reported that he had been beaten up by their police," the complaint states.
"Plaintiff's information was taken and he was advised that someone from their office would contact him.
"After no one contacted plaintiff, he called them back Friday, February 25 and told an employee that he would come to their office in the afternoon to find out how to make a 'proper complaint' about the incident."
For this, he says, he was arrested again - and he never even filed the complaint.
"On February 25, 2011, 1:30 p.m., plaintiff arrived at the administration office," the complaint states.
"Plaintiff was kept waiting in the lobby for about 20 minutes - without incident.
"Plaintiff decided to leave and as he drove out of the office parking lot, he was unlawfully detained, and then arrested by being surrounded by four Spring Branch ISD police cars.
"Spring Branch ISD Police Chief Brawner approached plaintiff along with another officer. After he identified himself and stated that he was aware that plaintiff had been contacting the Spring Branch ISD Office. Chief Brawner proceeded to issue him with a warrant prohibiting him from entering Spring Branch ISD Administration for two years.
"On May 9, 2011, both charges were dismissed by the Harris County District Attorney's Office ... based on the fact that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the charges
Jathanna says he notified Spring Branch ISD about his claims on Aug. 9, 2011.
"The response from defendants was that the officers followed proper procedure and had done nothing wrong. In truth, Spring Branch Independent School District, and Spring Branch Independent School District's Police Department ratified the conduct and actions of all officers," Jathanna says.
Jathanna seeks damages for civil rights violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, pain and suffering and negligence.
He is represented by Jimmie Brown Jr. of Missouri City.
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