Cop sued for tasering handcuffed mentally ill man
Twenty-eight-year-old Thomas Jason James Smith has filed a federal lawsuit against Millvale, Pennsylvania officer Nichole Murphy, Chief Derek Miller, and the borough, a suburb of Pittsburgh. The suit, which seeks $75,000 in damages, claims that Murphy used excessive force against Smith while other officers and paramedics stood in the background and laughed.
The incident occurred last year, and was apparently recorded on a cell phone. Footage has been leaked to numerous news outlets in the Pittsburgh area, showing a shirtless Smith sitting on the floor, banging his head against a desk before being tasered twice.
It’s not clear who recorded the video or why it was leaked now, but Smith’s mother told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last year that he already suffered from mental health issues like bipolar disorder and depression. Attorney David Shrager said the stun gun incident only made his condition worse.
At the time of his arrest, Smith was detained for public drunkenness after stopping to rest on church steps on his way home. According to WPXI News, the lawsuit states Smith did not resist arrest, but that he did hit his head against a desk after being ordered to sit on the floor.
“At no time was he a danger to anyone besides himself," the lawsuit said.
The suit also claims that Murphy was previously fired for “conduct similar to that which is the subject of this complaint,” only to be rehired sometime before the incident in question.
On October 15, Smith pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, but authorities ultimately dropped charges of resisting arrest and aggravated harassment. He was fined $100, given 180 days of probation, and assigned to a mental health facility for treatment.
Soon after Smith’s arrest, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office initiated an investigation into officer Murphy’s actions. That operation was eventually turned over to the FBI, which WPXI said opened a civil rights investigation in February. No charges have been filed as a result, though it’s not clear if the investigation is still ongoing. Opposing Views reported that the incident is still under review by Allegheny County.