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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Officer May Be Liable for Tasering Teen’s Scrotum

SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - A Richmond police officer may have violated California law when he Tasered a black teenager in the scrotum, a federal judge ruled.

Andre Little sued the City of Richmond, Calif., claiming police officer Kristopher Tong violated his civil rights and California law during an altercation at a train station.

Little said Tong approached him as he was waiting for a train and asked if he was associated with a group of black teens who were "previously detained for questioning."

When Little said he was not involved with the group, Tong still asked him to move down the train platform, according to the complaint. When Little refused, Tong allegedly grabbed his wrists, and Tong and another officer tackled Little to the ground.

The teen said he began screaming, "Stop! Let me go! You have the wrong guy!"

"Tong then pulled out a Taser and pointed it at [Little's] head," according to the lawsuit.

Little said he pushed the gun away in protest, and Tong then pointed it at his scrotum area. The teen allegedly began screaming, "Don't Tase me bro! Please don't Tase me in the balls! You don't have to do this!"

Tong responded by Tasering Little's scrotum, according to the complaint. The officers then placed him on his stomach and Tased him on his back.

"The officers finally stopped the attack when the Taser dart became lodged in [Little's] back," the lawsuit states.

U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled that Little's complaint failed to show that Tong singled him out or that the officer's actions were motivated by racial animus.

"The complaint provides no facts that indicate where Little was standing in relation to either the detained young men or the other train passengers and passersby," Corley wrote. "For instance, the complaint is silent as to whether Little was standing next to the previously detained young men, or whether Little was away from the men and/or among other non-African-Americans who were not questioned by Tong."

However, the judge said Little could amend his complaint to eliminate these deficiencies.

"[I]f it can be plausibly inferred that Tong approached Little and questioned him about his association with the detained African-American men because Little is also African-American, such racial animus provides the further plausible inference that Tong's actions occurring in close temporal proximity -- ordering Little to move down the platform and the use of force -- were also motivated by racial animus," Corley wrote. (Emphasis in original.)

Corley refused to dismiss Little's claim that Tong had used "threats, intimidation or coercion" to interfere with his legal rights in violation of California's Bane Act.

Allegations of independent coercion are not required in every instance of excessive force, as Tong had argued, Corley explained.

Though the judge refused to dismiss the Bane Act claim, she noted that Tong could "raise the same arguments based on a more complete factual record or developments in the caselaw or both."

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