The mother of an Akron middle-school girl whose arm was fractured in a confrontation with a police officer has filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the city’s police chief and other members of the department, court records show.
Sandra Williams, the mother of Tamika Williams, 14, filed the federal suit on her daughter’s behalf Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Akron.
Police Chief James Nice was named as the principal defendant.
All additional details in the complaint were kept from public view by the judge in charge of the case, however.
Citing a legal technicality in which only the initials of a minor are to be used in filing the lawsuit paperwork, Judge John R. Adams sealed the complaint on the grounds that the teen’s full name was used in the court documents.
Adams gave the attorney of record, Eddie Sipplen, 14 days to refile the complaint using only the teen’s initials.
In a Beacon Journal interview Wednesday, Sipplen said he already has refiled the suit. It charges civil-rights violations, he said, and asks for monetary damages — at least $75,000 in compensatory damages and at least $1 million in punitive damages.
Sipplen said the allegations “are the same as what’s been reported before.” The officer, he said, “had no reason to get involved with a school disciplinary matter, but he acted under the color of law, and he broke her arm and he had no probable cause to even get involved or to contact her.”
The officer “must be held accountable” for those actions, Sipplen said.
The incident that was the basis for the suit occurred Oct. 26 at Jennings middle school.
Incident on video
In a school security video, which Sandra Williams obtained from the district and agreed to share in early January during an interview with a Beacon Journal reporter at Sipplen’s office, Officer Jon Morgan was shown rushing Tamika Williams at a doorway, then forcing her back across a hall and against a locker.
Moments later, the officer grabbed the girl’s left arm, spun her around and raised the arm up toward her right shoulder.
It appeared, at one point, the officer lifted the girl off the ground as other students milled around in the hallway.
Sandra Williams and Sipplen also obtained medical records and X-rays showing what they said was a fracture to the teen’s upper left arm. She was 13 at the time.
On Jan. 9, only days after the newspaper’s story about the security video, Tamika Williams was arrested at Litchfield middle school — the third school in the district she has attended this academic year — for allegedly assaulting a fellow student and a teacher.
There were no reported injuries, but police arrested the teen on two counts of juvenile delinquency by reason of assault — one a felony, one a misdemeanor.
Paul Hlynsky, the police union president, said the union “has witnessed these things before and stands behind the actions of the officer.”
He said the teen “has had a history of violence and was basically being destructive before this incident happened. And the officer ironically gave her a big break by not charging her criminally, hoping that the school system would take care of it that way.”
But the teen became “angry and confrontational, so the officer was required to subdue her,” Hlynsky said.
He said there apparently is evidence of some discussions between the teen and fellow students “that she had injured that arm before this incident.”
A small section of the school security video of the Jennings incident, he noted, “doesn’t tell a complete story. It only tells a fraction of the story,” Hlynsky said.
Hlynsky said Morgan has returned to Jennings, continuing to provide security at the school, “because they love him there.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.