The City of San Antonio reached a settlement Thursday in a federal lawsuit involving a Black woman who claims a city officer reached in her pants and removed her tampon during an illegal cavity search on the side of the road.
The city offered Natalie D. Simms $205,000 to settle her complaint.
In 2016, a San Antonio officer approached Simms, 40, as she sat on the curb of a public street, talking on the phone while waiting on her boyfriend.
In her complaint, Simms said she drove to the area and parked her car across the street from where she was sitting. That’s when several cops arrived to the scene and said they suspected the woman of having drugs.
Knowing she didn’t have anything illegal, Simms consented to a vehicle search. After the officers were unable to find anything in her car, the suit alleges a female officer was called to search Simms’ body — a search she says she didn’t consent to.
Detective Mara Wilson, who’s now retired, conducted a vaginal cavity search in public and in the presence of five male police officers. While searching her, the complaint said Wilson “pulled open Natalie’s pants and underwear and used a flashlight to look around the area” and then proceeded to “reach into Natalie’s pants and pull the string attached to a tampon, which was present in Natalie’s vaginal cavity.”
Much of the search was captured by a dashcam in Wilson’s car.
“I’m not gonna reach, I’m just gonna look,” Wilson is heard saying, noting that Simms keeps “flinching and everything.”
“I’m not — yeah, because I’m on my cycle,” the victim responds.
At one point, the detective asks Simms if she’s wearing a tampon, to which she confirms that she is. Wilson then goes to tug at the string, she says, “just want to make sure that’s what it is.”
A stunned Simms replies,”It’s full of blood, right? Why would you do that?”
Per the lawsuit, Wilson then proceeded to hold up the used tampon in view of the male officers for approximately 23 seconds while asking Simms “rhetorical” questions and making comments about the tampon. The detective allegedly also remarked about the amount of pubic hair Simms had, and told her they couldn’t go to the police station to finish the search, despite the woman’s repeated requests.
Simms was finally allowed to leave the scene after the officer’s search didn’t turn up anything. She filed her complaint in March 2018, naming the city of San Antonio and Detective Wilson as defendants.
Local station KENS 5 reported that Wilson never faced any consequences for the incident, aside from a note in her file by Police Chief William McManus saying that the event would “‘serve as a reference in the event there [was] a re-occurrence of [that] type of action by the officer.”
The City Attorney’s Office addressed the settlement in a statement Thursday.
“There is no standard formula used to calculate and negotiate a settlement between parties,” it read. “Every case is evaluated on its own and like any other parties in litigation we consider the applicable law and the facts.”
See more of the lawsuit below.