A grocery delivery woman alleging she was manhandled, put in a chokehold and slammed to the ground by officers during a traffic stop for expired tags in Ohio has filed a $30 million excessive force lawsuit.
Caitlin Taylor’s lawsuit, filed in a federal court, alleges she was ordered out of her vehicle by a Sylvania Township Police Department officer at gunpoint while stopped in a driveway as she was delivering groceries last June. She alleges officers held her for four hours without medical treatment and arrested her on charges of obstruction and resisting arrest that were later dismissed after prosecutors saw dashcam footage of the incident, her lawyer said.
“The excessive force used against Mrs. Taylor by the Sylvania Township Police Department cannot be justified and is not acceptable,” said her lawyer Anthony Richardson II, in a statement. “Mrs. Taylor is a U.S. citizen and is afforded all rights as such, and she deserves to be informed of why she is being approached and even has the right to resist an unlawful arrest or other unlawful action by the officers. It actually seems that the officers not only forgot to show care regarding her rights but also forgot she was a human being who deserved to be treated with dignity. At all times, the officers were acting under color of law and the mental and emotional harm they’ve caused, without legal justification to do so, will be long or forever lasting for Mrs. Taylor and her family.”
Taylor said she was confused, shocked and traumatized.
“I was just very taken aback by it,” she told ABC Toledo affiliate WGTV. “I just wanted to know what was going on because I was very confused why he was pointing a gun at me.”
The lawsuit alleges battery, assault, deprivation of rights, reckless acts, and negligence. It names the department and officers John Tanner and Michael Wyatt. It seeks damages for physical pain, mental anguish, humiliation, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Sylvania Township Police Chief Paul Long did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment from Law&Crime. He told WGTV he could not comment on pending litigation. The station also contacted the officers in the lawsuit for comment but hadn’t heard back.
Last Friday, attorneys for Sylvania Township Police filed a motion to dismiss the case in federal court, arguing the department cannot be sued as a separate entity under Ohio law, the station reported. That motion is still pending.
It all went down on June 5, 2022, when Taylor got lost during a grocery delivery in Toledo, Ohio, the lawsuit said.
Officer Tanner saw Taylor in traffic and observed that she had a Michigan license with expired tags. He then followed her to a neighborhood where she pulled into an apartment complex driveway and sat for a minute to find her delivery destination, the lawsuit said.
As she sat in the driveway, Tanner’s police vehicle “stealthily approached” her vehicle, the lawsuit alleged.
She did not see him and began to back her vehicle up to drive around the complex and find the correct address to deliver the groceries, the lawsuit said.
As she began to back out, Tanner got out of his vehicle and turned on his overhead lights to seemingly get her attention or intimate her, the lawsuit alleged.
The officer drew his firearm and kneeled behind the vehicle door “to intimidate and harass” Taylor as if he suspected she was there to “make a drug delivery or rob the neighborhood,” the lawsuit said. She followed orders to get out of her vehicle.
“At no point was Plaintiff anything more than a confused U.S. citizen who was lost and worried about making a grocery delivery on time,” the lawsuit stated.
Tanner shouted commands which Taylor found to be conflicting and confusing, the lawsuit said. He demanded she raise her hands while shutting off her vehicle, taking the keys out of the ignition and dropping them out of the car, the lawsuit said.
“The confusing and conflicting commands given by Officer Tanner were not in line with proper police training, and he was the catalyst to the escalating situation,” the lawsuit said.
Tanner requested additional units to assist in detaining Taylor, then switched from his firearm to his Taser. He approached her, then tried to restrain her without telling her why she was being detained, the civil complaint said.
“Without any explanation, Plaintiff was then attacked, grabbed, manhandled, spun around, and slammed to ground, all by Officer Tanner,” the lawsuit said. “Officer Tanner had her in a body restraint which seemingly was intended to cut off her ability to move, as he then slammed her to the ground and against the vehicle.”
Then Wyatt, the second officer in the lawsuit, arrived to assist Tanner.
“In an attempt to seemingly restrain her in as much of a dominant way possible, Officer Tanner threw himself on top of Plaintiff and Officer Wyatt held her in a chokehold, to seemingly cut off her respiration and perhaps render her unconscious,” the complaint said.
When she repeatedly asked why she was being arrested, the officers replied, “For obstructing.”
She was taken off the ground, placed on her feet and handcuffed without justifiable cause or reason, the lawsuit alleged, citing that she never was alleged to have committed a felony, and she posed no threat. The lawsuit called her detainment unwarranted, excessive and unjustifiable.
“There was no split-second judgment or tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situation that could justify deference to the officer’s judgment on how much force was necessary in the situation,” the lawsuit said.
She was arrested and escorted to a police vehicle, where she was held for four hours. She was not seen by a medical professional for wounds that included bruises all over her body and bleeding from the tightness of the handcuffs, the lawsuit alleged.
The confrontation traumatized her and exacerbated past trauma of verbal and physical abuse, the lawsuit said.
Several weeks after the incident, she couldn’t find work and feared getting into a car to deliver groceries. She eventually quit her grocery delivery job and started a new job at lower pay.
“She was traumatized and cannot bear the reality that it could happen again while she is delivering groceries if someone calls in to authorities and reports her a suspicious person for just being lost,” the lawsuit said.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]