A Black woman has filed a lawsuit against the Delaware Division of state police after she was blockaded and held at gunpoint by plainclothes officers last month until they realized she was not the suspect they were looking for.
According to a lawsuit filed on July 14 in U.S. District Court, Martiayna Watson, 20, was the victim of “assault and battery, use of excessive force, and has suffered “extreme emotional suffering” as a result of the ordeal.
On June 24, Watson was leaving a BP gas station in Wilmington, Delaware, at around 5:25 p.m., around the same time officers were looking for a Black male and female suspect in a dark gray Nissan Maxima. Watson is 4 feet 10 and was driving a light gray Nissan Altima. The officers were in unmarked vehicles and plainclothes. She has not been able to learn the names of the policemen who blockaded her vehicle.
Watson noticed a vehicle, referred to as “Vehicle 1” in the suit, following her slowly.
“Suddenly and without warning, Vehicle 1 cut off Plaintiff’s vehicle by aggressively swerving in front of her, blocking her lane of travel,” according to the lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star. “Vehicle 1 then stopped and reversed directly into the front of Plaintiff’s vehicle.” At the same time, another vehicle struck Watson’s car from behind, and a third and fourth vehicle pulled up on Watson’s right and left side.
The officers exited their vehicles guns drawn, according to the suit and one noted verbally that there was no one else in the car with Watson. Despite the fact that both of her front windows were already completely down, one officer broke the driver’s side rear window of Watson’s car before she was dragged out of the vehicle, her attorneys say in the court filing.
When Watson asked what was happening, an officer pressed a taser to her neck and said “I’m going to fuck you up,” according to the suit. Then an officer eventually said, “I think we have the wrong person.” The officers returned to their vehicles and drove away without offering Watson an apology.
Watson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages on the grounds that she was falsely imprisoned and her Fourth Amendment right to be secure in her person against unreasonable searches and seizures was violated.
Watson said during a news conference last week, “I thought I was about to be kidnapped.”
Richard Smith, president of the Delaware NAACP, was driving by when he heard Watson cry out and stepped in. “When is enough enough?” he asked at the press conference. Adding, “What do we do as Black people in the city of Wilmington? Just lay down and die?”
Emeka Igwe, an attorney for Watson, said the woman wasn’t offered victim support after the ordeal but a sergeant and lieutenant apologized and offered Watson money to get her car fixed. Her attorneys have been unable to determine whether the incident is being investigated by the state police, the Delaware News Journal reported.
Watson explained that she is still suffering emotional trauma almost a month after the incident.
“I can’t even drive without thinking something is going to happen to me,” Watson said. “I’m so scared, and I did nothing wrong.”