A 46-year-old Black man has sued the city police department claiming excessive force in a Feb. 8 incident where he was mistaken for a suspect in a panhandling investigation. His attorney is calling the incident a civil rights violation.

The city said Monday it is reviewing the incident and has posted body camera video along with a statement on social media.

The lawsuit was filed Friday afternoon in federal court and names Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson, members of the Valdosta City Council, Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan, three Valdosta patrolmen and one police sergeant as defendants.
The suit states: “Defendants’ actions, omissions and deliberate indifference to violations of clearly established constitutional rights caused Mr. Smith to suffer physical, mental and emotional injuries.”
Smith is asking for compensation and punitive damages in the amount of $700,000, according to the lawsuit.

The Valdosta Daily Times informed the city of the lawsuit shortly after it was filed Friday afternoon and gave city officials until Monday to respond.

Monday morning, city officials told The Valdosta Daily Times they were aware of the suit. On Monday afternoon, city officials told The Times in a statement, “the city has not had time to review the document and therefore cannot comment on the content of the suit.”

A short time later, the city made a social media statement saying it was “fully committed to transparency.”
A five-minute, 42-second video of body camera footage was also released by the city Monday afternoon.


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