Jasper police brutality case goes federal
A woman beaten while in the custody of the Jasper Police Department has now filed a federal civil rights violation lawsuit against the officers who she says assaulted her, their supervisors, the city of Jasper, Jasper Mayor James Lout, and others. According to the lawsuit, victim Keyarika Diggles is “the latest victim of Jasper’s long-standing and now escalating racial tension.”
Diggles claims she was still asleep when officers initially came to her home to arrest her for what would later be called “traffic violations” some time after 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 5. Once in custody, Diggles was instructed to call for assistance in raising the money needed to pay for the ticket. However, prior to getting help with the money, two Jasper police officers beat Diggles to the ground, dragged her across the jail floor, then hoisted her by her handcuffed wrists to throw her in a darkened cell where she would remain for hours. Topping off the ordeal, Diggles’ charges were then enhanced to resisting arrest.
Diggles, and her attorney, Cade Bernsen, said that no warrant for arrest has ever been produced — although it has been requested many times.
Officers Brian Cunningham and Ricky Grissom are both named in the federal lawsuit. According to Bernsen, the confrontation ensued when Diggles was on the phone with her mother, asking for money to pay the alleged traffic ticket. At that time, Grissom cut off the phone call while Diggles was in mid-sentence.
“After ending the phone conversation, defendant Grissom and plaintiff exchanged words — words the public cannot hear because the audio either ‘doesn’t exist’ or has never been produced by the city,” the federal suit states. Then Grissom cornered Diggles against the wall of the police station, his body within inches of Diggles.
At that point, Grissom was joined by Cunningham, as shown on video surveillance of the jail. Cunningham grabbed Diggles by her hair and “deliberately and intentionally pulled plaintiff across the office so that he could slam her head violently and maliciously on to the countertop,” Diggles claims in her suit. “Cunningham and Grissom knew their actions were being recorded, but they were not afraid or deterred in continuing the assault of (Diggles) because they knew they would be protected by their supervisors and (the) city of Jasper.”
According to Diggles, although she was injured by the initial assault, the officers kept using force. After the face slam, Diggles was thrown to the ground, forcefully handcuffed, and dragged across the jail floor before being thrown in a dark cell despite being severely injured and in extreme pain.
“During this time, (Diggles) was still secure in tight, metal handcuffs that had already started to pierce her skin,” the federal filing states. “In attempting to lift plaintiff to her feet, the two officers aggressively lifted her by her hands — a practice that officers are specifically told not to employ due to the serious, painful effects on an arrestee’s shoulders. All during the sequence of events, plaintiff pleaded with the officers to stop and called for help to the dispatcher, all of which was ignored.”
The dispatcher named in the complaint, Linsey Davenport, was the live-in girlfriend of one of the officers. In responding to the calls for help, Davenport came to the scene of the assault and held open a jail cell door while the two assaulting officers threw the young woman into the room.
“With her hands tightly bound behind her, (Diggles) spent the duration of her time in the isolated cell with an injured scalp where her hair was ripped from her head, a brace (orthodontic) lodged into her upper lip, a tooth dangling by its root and handcuffs ripping into her wrists,” Bernsen said.
Neither of the officers nor the dispatcher has been charged with assault to date. Bernsen said he believes the evidence showing the officers’ assault on Diggles was purposely withheld from public purview to skew the May 11 city of Jasper election.
“It should not take three weeks to conduct an investigation into the incident involving Diggles,” Bernsen stated in the federal filing. “As a direct and proximate result of the above-referenced unlawful and malicious abuse and brutalization of plaintiff by defendants Grissom, Cunningham and Davenport, committed under color of law and under their authority as defendants city of Jasper police officers, plaintiff suffered serious bodily harm and was deprived of her right to be secure in her person against unreasonable violence and seizure of her person, in violation of the 4th and 14th amendments of the Constitution of the United States.
“Additionally, (Diggles suffered) damages in the form of medical expenses and cost for her defense and bond from the wrongful charges of resisting arrest, and attorney fees and expenses and other damages.”
But for the “intentional, wanton, malicious and oppressive” acts of Grissom, Cunningham and Davenport, Diggles would be whole now. Additionally, acts perpetrated by Jasper Mayor Lout, police supervisor Gerald Hall, and others who aided and abetted the cover-up of Diggles’ assault also contributed to the victim’s loss of liberty, according to the claim in court.
A court date for oral arguments in the federal case has yet to be set.