A Black seminarian is suing the Tulsa police after being injured during an altercation with law enforcement while suffering through a mental health crisis. The great-grandmother’s attorney said she was “taunted,” “mocked” and eventually jailed, instead of receiving support while having a bipolar manic episode.
Local news platform KTUL reported lawyers for LaDonna June Paris, 70, have filed a lawsuit against the city of Tulsa, the Tulsa Police Department, and the officers on the scene that laughed at her and dragged her out of a bathroom at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore building on Oct. 25, 2021.
A 90-minute video of the altercation showing Officer Ronni Carrocia teasing and saying she couldn’t wait for another officer to violently engage the woman sparked national outrage.
That day’s events began at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa. Paris began behaving strangely at the school, where she is a graduate student, which prompted witnesses to call emergency services for her.
When an ambulance arrived at the seminary Paris left in a U-Haul truck with a dog inside and drove to the Habitat for Humanity building. She locked the dog in the truck and went inside the Habitat building, where she ultimately locked herself in the bathroom after being asked to leave because of her strange behavior.
Clips from the video show the officers originally approached the situation with care.
“They want you to leave, so I’m gonna need you to come out. OK?” said the officer.
Paris asks, “Who wants me to leave?”
“The property owners want you to leave. They say that you’re banned,” the officer responded.
“Why am I banned? What have I done?” Paris inquired.
“Because you won’t come out of the bathroom, they want you to leave,” said the officer.
But the exchange shifted, as the officers grew more impatient, clicking a stun gun and asking, “Do you want to get Tased?”
Paris, who is still shut up in the bathroom, pleaded with the officer, “Don’t do it” and asked her, “Why are you doing this?”
Carrocia shakes and bangs on the door prompting Paris to say, “Get away from me, get away, get away.” The officer then laughs and says to another officer, “I love my job.”
Paris can be heard saying “the cops are trying to kill me here” after a while.
Carrocia at one point warned, “It’s gonna be a bad time for you if you don’t open the door.”
When a different cop arrives, he busts down the door with his foot and the video then shows him tackling Paris to the ground, whereupon she sustains a gash on the side of her face. One officer says someone must clean up the blood left by her injury.
And as the video ends with Paris being arrested, a voice believed to be Carrocia is heard remarking, “If you are going to play stupid games, you are going to win stupid prizes.”
Paris’ attorney, Damario Solomon-Simmons said at a press conference on Tuesday, May 10, “This video is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen in my life.”
A media alert announcing the lawsuit shared “Officer [Ronni] Carrocia and other TPD officers taunted, mocked, harassed, attacked, and jailed her for manifestations of the bipolar manic episode they knew she was experiencing.”
“As a result of this attack,” it continued. “Ms. Paris suffered a chipped tooth, abrasions to her face, injuries to her finger and leg, and severe emotional distress.”
The Tulsa police responded to these allegations in March, saying some of the actions were “unprofessional,” but for the most part, they stand by the officers.
“To be clear, the banter between the officers outside of the presence of the suspect can be received as unprofessional and has been addressed with the officers,” a statement read. “The overall actions of the officers and the way in which the call was handled is within the policies of the Tulsa Police Department.”
Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin told the press in March “the officer’s actions are under investigation but heavily edited video never tells the whole story. Five videos totaling more than 5hrs were made available to the media. Here is one which captures 1 1/2 hrs. of the encounter.”
Mayor Bynum said, “Tulsa Police leadership brought this video to my attention last month as part of their investigation. It is heartbreaking to see a fellow Tulsan suffering a mental health crisis in a video, and it is a reminder of the difficult situations officers deal with in the field every day.”
He also stood with the police saying, “I am confident in the investigation conducted by the Tulsa Police Department.”
“We cannot stand for that,” Solomon-Simmons says about TPD’s statement. “This is ridiculous.”
“That’s why we are suing the city of Tulsa, the officers, and Mayor GT Bynum because make no mistake about it — Mayor GT Bynum is the final policymaker in this city,” said Solomon-Simmons.
“He has been put on notice for years that this type of activity happens to people who haven’t had mental health breakdowns, and particularly to African Americans.”
According to data from the Mapping Police Violence project, at least 53 people who exhibited signs of mental illness between the years 2013 and 2021 have been killed by Oklahoma law enforcement. Over 20 Percent of those deaths were caused by the TPD.
One third of Tulsa police have been trained in crisis intervention, the Oklahoma Watch reports. The Tahlequah Daily Press confirms none of the officers who responded to Paris during the 2021 debacle participated in the weeklong, voluntary training.
The lawyers said because Paris’ civil rights were violated, the legal team is seeking punitive damages.