Trans Man to Sue L.A. County for Traffic Stop Beating Caught on Video
Author: Donald Padgett
A California transgender man has filed a claim for damages and plans on suing Los Angeles County after he was beaten by a sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop that was caught on video earlier this year.
Brock Emmett, a 23-year-old former schoolteacher, was arrested and initially charged with three felonies for the incident that took place on February 10. The charges were later reduced to two misdemeanors and then dropped altogether following the release of surveillance video contradicting the official version of the incident provided by the arresting officer, Sheriff Deputy Joseph Benza, in his official report. Emmett lost his job because of the incident and has not been rehired to his old position.
Emmett said he will file suit against the county in part because Benza is still employed as a sheriff with the county.
“I would really hope that the deputy is dismissed and punitive action is taken,” Emmett told NBC. “I just can’t feel like this is acceptable behavior on the deputy’s part – to assault another person over hurt feelings.”
He’s seeking at least $10,000 in damages, according to NBC.
Benza claimed he pulled over Emmett because of an illegal air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror and that he only punched Emmett repeatedly and bashed his head into the pavement because he feared for his own safety from the smaller Emmett. He also claimed Emmett bit him. A medical expert determined the only injury of note suffered by Benza was a fractured hand which Emmett’s attorney suggested was a fist injury suffered when Benza used it to punch Emmett.
Emmett told the LA Times was driving home from work when he saw a deputy by the side of the road engaged in a heated discussion with a woman. Still upset about a fellow coworker who had harassed him because of his sexual identity earlier that day, Emmet said he flipped his middle finger at the deputy. Emmett doubted the officer would see it, but within moments he was being followed by a sheriff’s cruiser.
Emmett said he called 911 to confirm the cruiser was following him, but the dispatcher questioned the reason for his call as Emmett had not been stopped. When Emmett pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store, the sheriff followed him and used his vehicle to block him into the parking space. Surveillance video from the convenience store synched with the deputy’s own recordings showed Emmett calmly asking what is happening when the deputy confronted him and then attacked.
“You’re going to kill me,” Emmett can be heard screaming in the video as Benza body slams him into the ground and pounds his head into the asphalt. “You’re going to f*ck*ng kill me. Help! Help! Help!”
“He just kept saying, ‘Stop resisting, stop resisting,’” Emmett told the LA Times. “I didn’t understand why he was shouting that because I wasn’t resisting.”
In his 11-page report of the arrest – which made no mention of Emmett’s use of the middle finger – Benza wrote he was concerned about “safety issues” and that didn’t know if Emmett had any “contraband items” hidden in his car during the confrontation.
He claimed he only grew violent when Emmett “cocked his right hand back into a fist, indicative of someone about to throw a punch.” He also claimed Emmett “continuously tried to bite” him throughout the arrest, but that he was able to subdue after punching Emmett in quick succession.
“My punches had their intended effect,” Benza concluded.
Emmett also claims he underwent a humiliating genital exam to prove he was a trans man, but was still housed with female prisoners.
An internal use-of-force review cleared Benza of wrongdoing, the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement, but have been tightlipped about other aspects of Brock’s allegations.
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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Donald Padgett