FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (CN) — The video shows a Flagstaff policeman punching a woman in the face. She says he told her he had a warrant for her arrest, though he did not. Now she’s sued the former officer and the city, in state court.
Marissa Morris sued former Flagstaff police Officer Jeffrey Williams and the City of Flagstaff on Oct. 20 in Coconino County Court.
According to the complaint, Williams was assisting a sheriff’s deputy in an eviction on Nov. 16, 2016, involving a person living in the same home as Morris. Williams asked Morris her name, and when she told him, he told her “that he had a warrant for her arrest, which he did not.”
Morris says she told the officer there were no warrants out on her, and “Defendant Williams then grabbed plaintiff Morris from behind nearly throwing her to the ground. Defendant Williams then attempted to arrest plaintiff Morris and struck plaintiff Morris multiple times in the face.” Then he handcuffed her and locked her in his patrol car.
Morris says she was jailed overnight on false charges of resisting arrest and aggravated assault — but no charges were ever filed against her.
Williams did not have his body camera on until after the beating and arrest, Morris says, but a friend of hers filmed it and posted it on social media.
The video spread widely and caught the attention of the mainstream media.
Morriss’ attorney Benjamin Taylor II says Williams did a lot of damage to his client.
“It has tremendously affected her life emotionally and physically,” Taylor said in an interview. “Anybody would be affected emotionally after being punched in the face twice by an officer for no reason.”
The 10-count lawsuit accuses Williams of battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence, and the city of negligent hiring and supervision.
Morris says Flagstaff should have better supervised and hired its officers.
Williams was placed on temporary leave after the police department learned of the video. He resigned after an internal review found Williams violated six department policies, including failing to turn on his body camera before the incident took place.
Williams was charged in March with aggravated assault after the Northern Arizona University Police Department investigated and referred the incident to the Mohave County Attorney's Office.
Proceedings came to a halt in September, though, when a judge ordered a grand jury to re-examine whether there is enough evidence to charge Williams after a prosecution error.
Flagstaff Police Chief Kevin Treadway issued a statement after the video went viral, distancing the department from Williams' actions.
“[Williams’] actions in this case are not consistent with the culture of our fine agency, our training, our mission, our oath of office, our values and our policies,” Treadway said. “We remain as always committed to professional policing, and [Williams’] conduct is not reflective of the way we police in this community.”
Morris seeks punitive damages.
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