AUSTIN (KXAN) — A woman who was thrown to the ground during an arrest by an Austin police officer is suing the City of Austin as well as the officer claiming she was subjected to excessive force and racial discrimination.
“We were hoping to work out a settlement without having to file suit outside of court. We reached out to the city attorney’s office, we sent a letter to the mayor’s office, we were told by the mayor’s office he would call us, he never called us,” Erica Grigg, Breaion King’s attorney said.
Last month, dash camera video was released of Breaion King’s arrest on June 15, 2015. In the video, Austin Police Department Officer Bryan Richter is seen conducting a traffic stop in southeast Austin. The officer’s lights and siren were on when he pulled over 26-year-old King for speeding. As the cars come to a stop in a parking lot, King steps out of her car as Officer Richter approaches her. As he asks her to get back into the car, the two continue speaking. King is sitting in the driver’s seat when the officer asks King to put her feet inside the car and from there the situation escalates.
When KXAN News spoke to King a few days after the video was released and immediately spawned conversations, she said she was confused about the whole situation.
“I was afraid for my life, that I have this man pulling me out of my car and I didn’t understand why, and it was pure fear, and I really wanted God to help me, I needed him to save me because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” King says. According to the lawsuit, King said Richter did not give her enough time to comply.
As Richter continues to try to get her out of the car, she says “I’m getting out, let me get out.” The lawsuit contends that during this time, the officer “slammed” King against the steering wheel. Once he is able to get her out of the car, video shows him throwing her to the ground and telling her to put her hands behind her back. During that time, she asks, “Why are you doing this to me? Are you serious?”
A few seconds later, as the officer is trying to place her in handcuffs, she tries to get up and the officer can be seen taking her to the ground a second time. In the lawsuit, King says the officer placed her in a chokehold and repeatedly kicked her legs. Once the officer finally gets the handcuffs on King, about two minutes later, a back-up officer arrived on scene.
The lawsuit goes on to say Officer Richter “falsely informed [other officers] that [King] had attempted to throw a punch at him” and that he said, “If she was a guy, man, I would have just hit her and been done with it.”
After she was placed into custody, King was put in Officer Patrick Spradlin’s patrol car where a racially-charged conversation took place. King says she wanted to understand the officer’s point of view on why she was being arrested.
“That’s what I was trying to understand, what is it that I need to do? What do we need to do as a community to make sure we change these things in a positive way so it doesn’t continue to happen to people?” says King.
On May 23, 2016, nearly a year after her arrest, Grigg contacted the city regarding the case. She informed them that if “no effort is made by you to resolve this matter within 10 days from receipt of this letter, suit will be filed.” The city attorney sent a letter on June 7, 2016 acknowledging receipt of the letter but only indicated “we will review the incident.” Grigg says she never heard back from the city. Subsequently, dash camera video of the arrest was released in mid-July.
“She felt like what happened to her mattered and people wanted to make it right and she’s disappointed because it doesn’t seem to be that way [anymore],” Grigg said.
A few days after the video was released, King and her attorney reached out to Mayor Steve Adler to create a dialogue regarding her claim as well as ways to “repair the relationship between the police department and the citizens,” continued in the lawsuit. Grigg tells KXAN News her office never received a response from Adler’s office.
The lawsuit contends the city is responsible for Richter’s “inadequate training” as well as its practice of “deliberate indifference.” According to Chief of Police Art Acevedo, he said he was not aware of King’s arrest until a few days before the video was released, even though the Travis County District Attorney’s Office knew it existed. The department’s use of force guidelines are now under review due to King’s arrest.
For the time being, any “level three” use of force case – the lowest level that involves controlling a person with bare hands – must be reviewed by the officer’s commander, as well as a peer commander from another chain of command.
“It would be wonderful if what Ms. King experienced would save other people form going through the same thing, that would be a really great thing,” Grigg said.
The lawsuit states King is suing for pain and suffering in excess of a million dollars.