A Black man is accusing a Georgia police department of using excessive force when he was shown on video being grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground by an officer in a takedown the man said broke his wrist. Antonio Smith, the injured man police identified, wasn’t even the suspect officers were looking for, police confirmed on social media Monday after an inquiry from Valdosta Daily Times.
Valdosta police confirmed Monday in a Facebook post that they were informed of a related lawsuit against them Friday. The incident, however, dates back to Feb. 8, 2020, when two officers were dispatched to a Walgreens in South Georgia. They had received a complaint that a man outside the business was "harassing customers, screaming loudly, and asking customers for money," police said in the Facebook post.
While one of the officers questioned a man a customer led them to, the other responding officer approached a man behind the Walgreens and asked for identification. “While (the) first officer was running the identification provided by the subject, it was learned that he had active felony arrest warrants,” police said.
The incident took a violent turn after officers approaching the scene overheard the mention of the warrant on a police dispatch, and one of them apparently didn’t realize two different men were being questioned by police by the time he arrived, police said.
In video of Smith’s interaction with police, he can be seen explaining that he was waiting on his sister to wire him money from a local Western Union, which he frequents. Smith provided the officer with identification and was asking police to call his sister when another officer approached him from behind and attempted to restrain him without warning, the video shows.
“What are you doing?” Smith asked. The officer responded: “Put your hands behind your back.”
Smith continued to ask the officer what he was doing, and the officer continued demanding that he put his hands behind his back. Before long, the officer could be seen taking Smith down to the ground while he screamed.
“Oh Jesus! Oh my God! Oh please!” he said. “I wasn’t doing anything. Oh my God! Jesus! Oh my God. You broke my wrist!” Another officer could be heard saying: “Yeah, he might be broken.”
Smith continued to sob, telling officers “it hurts.” Still, it wasn’t until Smith asked why he was being arrested that an officer even mentioned having a warrant for his arrest. At that point, an officer chimed in to explain that Smith didn’t have a warrant out against him. "The guy with the warrant's over there," the cop could be heard saying.
Smith was eventually released and by the time emergency services arrived, he told police he just wanted to leave. A shift supervisor was notified, and it prompted an internal review process, police said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Antonio Smith as saying his rib was broken. It has been updated to reflect that his ‘wrist’ was broken.