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Video shows Sugar Land police struggling with homeless man

September 7, 2018

A former homeless man who accused Sugar Land police of beating him after he refused to be searched said Wednesday the incident two years ago has made him fear for his life and has left him anxious about interactions with police.

“I just feel like I was mistreated,” Jerold Griffin, 45, said at a news conference outside Houston’s federal courthouse, where a day earlier he filed a lawsuit against the City of Sugar Land.

The case targets three Sugar Land police officers, J. Young, M. Shockey and L. Jones, for confronting Griffin, who was apparently sitting in Mayfield Park after dark.

Civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen said the incident in September 2016 left Griffin with broken ribs and a fractured eye socket, according to the Southern Division of Texas suit.

Kallinen on Wednesday released a 1-minute video clip of the encounter, apparently taken from an officer’s body cam.

The clip is shaky at times and dark, but appears to show an officer twice punching a man who is on the ground. The officer tells the man to “quit fighting” and to also “give me your .... hands or I’ll shoot you in the face.”

The man asks the officers if he can pull up his pants.

Sugar Land police spokesman Doug Adolph said over the phone Wednesday that Griffin was confronted by an officer who was patrolling the area to determine why he was sitting in a park that was closed.

Griffin’s identification was checked and it did not come back for any arrest warrants, according to Adolph. Officers then asked if they could search Griffin for any illegal substances.

“He became very erratic at that point,” said Adolph. “He began placing his hands in his pockets and into his waistband.”

Officers told Griffin to remove his hands but he refused to do so and took off running, according to Adolph. There was a short foot chase and Griffin apparently resisted being taken into custody.

When Griffin was detained, illegal drugs were found on him — including cocaine and Xanax. Adolph acknowledged a struggle did ensue before Griffin was detained. The spokesman said Griffinreceived minor injuries but refused to be transported by EMS.

Griffin was booked into the Fort Bend County Jail and charged with possession of illegal narcotics and resisting arrest. He spent four months in jail until he was able to pay bond and has spent two years fighting the possession of a controlled substance case, Kallinen said.

Wesley Witting, executive assistant district attorney for Fort Bend County District Attorney’s office, said Griffin’s defense attorney filed a motion to suppress evidence, which the trial court judge granted. The district attorney’s office is now appealing the trial court’s judge decision.

Griffin, who was homeless at the time of the arrest, recalls that he was talking to his now-fiance on the phone before the alleged beating took place.

According to the lawsuit, he was allowed to leave after officers checked to see if he had any compared active warrants. But soon after, Officer Young asked to search Griffin and allegedly grabbed him when he refused. Griffin fled and was tackled by a third officer, Jones, the suit reads.

“The police officer did draw his weapon during the struggle to prevent this individual from actively resisting,” said Adolph.

The lawsuit contends one of the officers kicked and punched 45-year-old Griffin, while another, believed to be Young, kneed him in the side and held a loaded weapon to the victim’s head.

“The muzzle contacted Jerold’s forehead as Young yelled, ‘give me your f—king hands or I’ll shoot you in the face,’ the complaint quotes Young as saying.

“That was extremely dangerous to actually put the muzzle of a gun on an individual’s face, “ said Kallinen. “That’s not proper police procedure and that in itself is excessive force.”

The lawsuit states that Griffin’s fourth and fourteenth amendment rights were violated. Griffin is seeking damages for the mental anguish he experienced and also punitive damages. Kallinen noted how at least two of the officers are white and Griffin is African-American. Griffin said he was scared when officers approached him because of past police brutality incidents happening among African-Americans.

“I had fear but at the same time I was like they had no reason to mess with me,” said Griffin.

brooke.lewis@chron.com

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