A Florida woman says she never thought she’d be a victim of police brutality after she was allegedly shackled and beaten by officers in a Jacksonville jail last month. Now her attorney is demanding the incident be investigated as a hate crime.
Kirenda Welch, who is five weeks pregnant, was arrested June 29 after cops pulled her over for making an illegal turn and realized she was driving on a suspended license, News 4 Jax reported. Welch was then carted off to jail where she said things quickly escalated.
According to investigators, Welch exchanged words with JSO corrections Officer Katherine Thompson, who assaulted the mother-to-be after placing her in four-point restraints. Welch added that officers looked on as she was beaten and pepper-sprayed, laying defenseless on the ground.
Complaints about her jail jumpsuit, which she said was unbearably itchy, reportedly triggered the attack.
“This Officer Thompson called me Kunta Kinte several times before she put me in shackles at the ankles and handcuffs at the wrists,” she told the station. “I complied with every one of her requests. I complied with her requests to shackle me only for her to punch me in the face and stomach over a dozen times. I was just in disbelief.”
Welch’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, said the “savage beating” clearly constituted “illegal abuse of excessive force,” and called on the state attorney’s office to investigate it as a hate crime.
“Before and during this outrageous attack on this citizen, there were racial slurs being used and hurled at her indicating what was the mentality of this officer as she assaulted and battered this 36-year-old, college-educated Black woman,” said Crump, who’s represented families in several high-profile cases of police brutality. “They were of a nature that could not be misconstrued as anything but racist, (and) those matters need to be charged appropriately.”
Thompson has since been fired from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and was arrested Thursday on charges of misdemeanor battery and official misconduct, which is a felony, News 4 Jax reported.
Crump called criminal charges against Thompson a good “first step” but said he planned to file a records lawsuit for all records, documents and surveillance footage from the incident to be released.
“A picture is worth 1,000 words and certainly video is worth a million,” he said. “If we see with our own eyes what took place, then we will know what Ms. Welch encountered may not have been something that was out of the blue if you can see people on that video just watching it happen, almost as if it’s business as usual.”
The national civil rights attorney also urged the DOJ to investigate the training practices of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office, arguing that Thompson knew where to take Welch so that’d she be out of the sight of security cameras.
“Make this a teachable moment,” he said.