NEWAYGO COUNTY, Mich. — Recently obtained video from late October 2012 shows Victor Lamont Garcia being tased at the Newaygo County Jail as he awaited trial on federal weapons charges.
In the video he appears defenseless and on his knees, in a compliant position, before he is shocked and falls to the floor. The executive director of the Kalamazoo prisoner rights group, MI-CURE, Kay Perry, was stunned while watching the video.
“He was doing nothing other than walking in,” said Perry, “…getting on his knees and putting his hands behind his back.”
She advocates for criminal justice reform and the ethical treatment of people who are behind bars.
“Kind of makes you sick to your stomach, doesn’t it?” she said. “If you can’t train the personnel to use it correctly, only when it’s essential, only if someone’s going to get hurt, there’s no justification for having tasers in the system.”
The video is also at the heart of a civil lawsuit filed in federal court against Newaygo County, the Sheriff’s Department and four corrections officers.
The lawsuit states that Garcia’s Eighth Amendment rights, pertaining to cruel and unusual punishment, were violated. The complaint also states that the incident started when Garcia asked Officer Jon Beagle if he’d given the captain the message that there was a problem with his TV.
He was reportedly in another inmate’s cell at the time.
Documents say that following that conversation, “Beagle told (Garcia) to go to his own cell.” and he, “initially refused.”
However, the complaint states that he returned anyway.
Then, it alleges Beagle returned with more officers and “ordered him to get down”.
It further states that Garcia, “immediately complied with this order and got down on his knees.”
Then it states that Beagle, “deployed his taser gun and shocked Garcia.”
Garcia claims to have suffered emotional and physical damages from the incident, including a broken nose, swelling and trouble sleeping.
Documents reveal that the corrections officer’s defense blames Garcia in part. The response to the complaint states that he “had an impaired ability to function due to the influence of intoxicating liquor or a controlled substance….”
It claimed that Garcia was then “50 percent or more the cause of the incident.”
However, Kay Perry disagrees with that statement, saying he looked calm in the video and was walking in a straight line. She felt there wasn’t a big indication of a threat.
“If he was intoxicated, he wasn’t in an agitated state. We certainly don`t go around tasing everyone that’s intoxicated. That’s a pretty feeble excuse. I think they used the taser because they wanted to use the taser,” she said.
Other documents show that another officer responded to the allegations by saying they thought Garcia had a razor in his possession. However, nothing in the court records beyond that statement indicated that anything was found in the man’s cell or on his body.
In addition, Perry said the video shows him with his hands behind his back. She believes that made it more clear that he wasn’t carrying a weapon of any kind.
FOX 17 attempted to contact Thomas Greer at the Newaygo County Jail for a statement. His administrative assistant told us he would get the message and get back to us. However, we did not receive a call as of Tuesday evening.
A county administration employee also told us that she would pass on the request for comment to her office manager. We did not receive a response from the county Tuesday evening.