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84-year-old woman sues Arizona police citing excessive force

August 2, 2018
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This February 2018 photo released by Ashlee Hahn shows injuries to Hahn's grandmother Virginia Archer. Archer alleges she was seriously injured by officers of an Arizona police department already under fire for numerous complaints of excessive force has filed a federal civil lawsuit against two policemen and their department. (Ashlee Hahn via AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — A woman who says she was seriously injured by police officers from an Arizona department under investigation for complaints of excessive force filed a lawsuit Thursday against two officers and the agency.

Virginia Archer alleges in the suit filed in federal court that she was unlawfully arrested and subjected to “excessive, brutal and completely unnecessary force” by Mesa police officers who went to her home last February checking on her grandson’s safety.

The complaint names Officers Christopher Orr and David Grimm, as well as the department and seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

Media relations Officer Steve Berry said the department could not comment because the case involves pending litigation, and said the officers would not be made available for comment.

The individual officers could not be immediately located separately for comment and the Fraternal Order of the Police Lodge 9 that represents Mesa officers did not immediately respond to a message seeking a response via its web page.

Officer Nikolas Rasheta, another department spokesman, said the internal investigation of the encounter remains open and is nearing conclusion.

Archer’s family complained that the 84-year-old woman was left with severe bruises after the encounter that began when Mesa police answered a call about a suicidal man with a gun. Photographs that her granddaughter Ashlee Hahn took of her bruised face and arms subsequently were posted on the internet.

Police at the time said the woman was injured when they were trying to keep her safe from the man and launched an internal inquiry.

Archer said Wednesday night that she was sick in bed when the officers came to check on her grandson and insisted that she come outside because they believed there was a gun inside the home. The lawsuit does not indicate whether the grandson was charged with anything, but it says Orr cited Archer for obstruction of justice, a charge a prosecutor later dismissed.

A police department statement issued days after the encounter said the man was taken away for an evaluation.

Archer said it was raining when she walked outside in her pajamas to talk with the officers, and one grabbed her arm and threw her to the ground. She said she was also unnecessarily handcuffed.

“No one has ever hurt me as bad as he did,” Archer said. “It just makes you so afraid that you don’t want to open your front door or ever call the police again.”

The lawsuit alleges that Orr harmed Archer and Grimm failed to intervene. It says the officers later attempted to justify their actions by contending the woman was being combative and not following directions. It says the department took no action against the officers.

The original police statement about the incident said the woman had seemed confused and “in order to keep her out of harm’s way, a use of force incident occurred with the female, who was injured.” It added she was transported to a hospital.

The Mesa Police Department has been under scrutiny in recent months for a pair of videotaped encounters involving its officers. The beating of a 33-year-old man captured on videotape and the rough treatment of a teenager prompted Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista in June to hire an outside attorney to investigate. Results of that investigation have not been announced.

Seven Mesa officers were placed on administrative leave with pay — two in the teen’s arrest and five in the case involving Johnson.

Batista also asked the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum to conduct an independent review of cases involving force by Mesa police over the past three years.

In a separate case late last year, former Mesa Police Officer Philip Brailsford was acquitted of a murder charge in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Texas man.

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