VIDEO: Surveillance footage shows officer taking teenager to ground outside Tacoma Mall; Lawsuit alleges brutality
A young woman who claims she was physically assaulted and brutalized by police officers and security guards working at the Tacoma Mall three years ago has amended a lawsuit she filed earlier this year, adding as defendants the city of Tacoma, the Police Department and two additional security guards.
In the amended complaint filed in Pierce County Superior Court on Wednesday, Monique Tillman and her brother, Eric Branch, claim their federal and state civil rights were violated when they were stopped while riding their bikes through the mall parking lot by the guards and officers.
According to the lawsuit, Tillman questioned the officers about whether they had probable cause to contact her and suggested she and her brother were targeted because they are African American.
When she tried to ride away, Tacoma police Officer Jared Williams “erupted and began physically assaulting and brutalizing” Tillman, the lawsuit claims.
Williams tossed Tillman around “like a child’s doll, slamming her into parked vehicles, forcibly shoving his forearm into her chest, grabbing her by the hair and body-slamming her into the pavement,” the suit claims. Surveillance video captured the incident.
Tillman, who was then 15, was arrested, but a judge later dismissed the charges against her.
In May, she filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from the officer, the private security firm he worked for, Universal Protection Services, and the owner of the mall, Simon Property Group.
The lawsuit was amended after a spokeswoman for Tacoma police told reporters that though Williams was off duty and working as a security guard, he still had police authority to make the arrest.
Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool told KOMO News, “His presence at the Tacoma Mall, even though off duty and paid by mall, he’s a police officer and he’s acting as a police officer.”
“Given that Officer Williams’ conduct was committed under color of law as a police officer for the Tacoma Police Department, the Plaintiffs have alleged federal and state civil rights violations in their amended complaint,” wrote Tillman’s attorney, Vito de la Cruz, in a statement released Wednesday. “At the core of the complaint is the excessive force used and illegal arrest made by Tacoma Police Officer Williams and others against Ms. Tillman and her brother Eric Branch.”
The amended complaint also names Tacoma police Officer Joshua McKenzie and security guard Henry Knaack.
Calls to attorneys representing the city, the mall and the security company were not returned.
Tillman’s attorney said the trial is set for May 2017.