FORT SMITH -- A 44-year-old man told a U.S. District Court jury Monday that a Fort Smith police officer used excessive force on him during a 2014 arrest that caused injuries to his head and face and violated his civil rights.
Clarence Leonard Scott is suing the city of Fort Smith and former officer Justin Deleon in regard to civil-rights violations and outrage. The suit also says the Police Department's policy unconstitutionally condoned the use of excessive force.
Scott is asking for compensatory and punitive damages. A petite jury of six men and two women began hearing Monday what is expected to be two or three days of testimony before Western Arkansas Chief U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III.
Scott testified that after arresting him for obstructing government operations, Deleon removed him from his patrol car in the sally port at the Sebastian County jail, slammed him onto the trunk of the patrol car and tripped him, causing Scott to fall face first onto the concrete floor with his hands handcuffed behind him.
Scott told jurors four of his front teeth were broken and that he suffered an injury to his jaw that still gives him pain. A dentist, Scott Bolding, told jurors it could cost as much as $20,000 to surgically repair Scott's jaw.
Scott said he also has suffered from depression and has trouble holding down a job. He is unemployed, he said.
Court records show that the city and Deleon claim that Scott was angry when he was asked to get out of the patrol car and that he aggressively stepped toward Deleon who, with a clipboard in one hand, had to try to control Scott with the other hand.
The city and Deleon say that when Deleon tried to turn Scott to the right to bend him over the trunk of the patrol car, Scott twisted to the left and lost his balance and fell to the floor.
Videos from three angles -- two in the sally port and one in Deleon's patrol car -- were shown to jurors. It showed Scott, who screamed and cursed all the way to the jail, calling Deleon a prejudiced "pig," getting out of the car and stepping close to Deleon.
Scott said he was angry because he believed he had done nothing to justify his arrest and that his arrest was racially motivated. Scott is black; Deleon is white.
Video showed Monday that after Scott steps from the car, Deleon puts a hand on his front to turn him toward the trunk of his patrol car, but Scott falls onto the trunk and starts to slide off the back. Deleon has a hold of him and appears to spin Scott around and throw him to the floor.
Deleon claims it was Scott's angry resistance that caused him to lose his balance and fall.
It was unclear in the videos who was exerting the force that caused the fall.
Scott said he was arrested outside Rooster's bar in downtown Fort Smith after leaving work as a cook at Longhorn Steakhouse. He said he went to the bar about 1 a.m. April 18, 2014, and drank three beers in about 40 minutes.
Scott said he had not gotten into an argument with anyone or caused any trouble in the bar. He said he bought a drink for a woman but that a man, identified as Roger Jones Jr., took the drink and drank it. The woman bought Scott a beer to repay him for the drink.
The woman behind the bar told Scott to leave without giving a reason. Scott said he left.
The city and Deleon claim that police were called because Scott was harassing women in the bar.
When Scott stepped outside, he said, he began to call for a cab when a Fort Smith police patrol car rolled up and Deleon got out, walked over to him and asked for his identification.
Scott said he handed over his identification immediately. The city and Deleon contend in court records that Scott refused to produce his identification and was arrested for obstruction of government operations.
Scott said he learned later that he was actually charged with disorderly conduct and felony battery of a police officer. The battery charge ultimately was dropped, and he pleaded no contest in May 2015 to the disorderly conduct charge. He was never charged with obstruction of government operations.
Scott said police slammed him to the ground outside the bar and again after returning to the jail from Sparks Regional Medical Center, where officers had taken him for medical treatment. He was handcuffed both times.
City Attorney Colby Roe produced medical records for the jury that stated Scott was uncooperative and intoxicated, urinated on the floor and cursed police and hospital staff. He was discharged without being treated.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.
State Desk on 01/23/2018
Print Headline: Hurt by lawman, federal jury told; Fort Smith also named in lawsuit