HOUSTON (CN) — A Texas state trooper tackled a mentally disabled man with “shocking physical force” in a restaurant because she thought he’d paid for his meal with stolen gift cards, his mother says in a federal lawsuit.
Lisa Polkinghorn sued Texas State Trooper Jamie Liles on Monday as legal guardian of her 21-year-old son David. The Polkinghorns are represented by Tej Paranjpe with Paranjpe & Mahadass in Houston.
Polkinghorn says in the lawsuit that her son’s disability is “immediately noticeable” from his movements and speech. She says David got several Chick-Fil-A gift cards for his birthday and was eager to spend them on May 3, when she took him to a restaurant in Conroe, an hour north of Houston. She waited in the car while David went inside to order his dinner.
On his way inside, David removed the gift cards from a child’s wallet he carried with him and tossed the wallet in the trash can. Liles “allegedly observed plaintiff throwing away his wallet and began to follow plaintiff,” the complaint states.
As David placed his order “in a laborious manner clearly indicating his disability,” Liles asked him where he got the gift cards. Confused and flustered by the questions, David tried to walk away from Liles but did not get far, his mother says.
“Defendant grabbed plaintiff’s arm and tackled him to the ground. Defendant placed handcuffs on plaintiff and held him on the ground for approximately 10 minutes,” the complaint states.
When she entered the restaurant to check on David, she found him handcuffed with a swollen nose and forehead, and an ambulance was called for him. Lisa says the trauma he suffered from his run-in with Liles damaged his relationship with his parents.
“After the incident, plaintiff was severely traumatized, refusing to speak to his parents and spending hours hiding under a blanket in his bed because he was afraid that defendant ‘was going to kill him,'” his mother says in the complaint.
She seeks punitive damages and medical expenses for civil rights claims of excessive force and unreasonable seizure.
Shortly after the incident, the Texas Department of Public Safety told Houston’s ABC affiliate KTRK that Liles saw David enter another restaurant that day, throw a wallet in a trash can, then immediately leave and go into the Chick-Fil-A.
The department told KTRK that David resisted when Liles tried to handcuff him, and though Liles suffered minor injuries in the tussle, she declined to file charges.
The Texas Department of Public Safety declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, or to say if Liles was disciplined or counseled for the incident.
Less than a week before Liles detained David, the department honored her with the Javier Arana Jr. Top Trooper Award, given to a male and female trooper for their performance in a competition that tests their job knowledge, physical conditioning, shooting and driving proficiency.