An excessive force lawsuit has been filed against a police officer in Texas after a Black man becomes partially paralyzed while in cop’s custody. Lawyers claim a video of the altercation exists and demand it be released to the public, promising it would show his client was handcuffed and posed no threat to the officer at the time of the altercation.
The lawsuit was filed in a Texas federal court and named the city of Beaumont, Texas, Beaumont police officer James Gillen, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, CorrHealth, the jail’s medical contractor for an unspecified amount in damages and attorney fees, alleging the officer used excessive force and violated the rights of Christopher Shaw, 42, while he was incarcerated in Jack Brooks Federal Building for public intoxication.
On Saturday, June 12, 2021, the filing alleges, Shaw was arrested by Gillen on a misdemeanor public intoxication charge. The officer saw him in the afternoon standing in the roadway.
According to a report, his words were slurring. Gillen took him first to a local area hospital to be evaluated, before being brought to the Jefferson County Correctional Facility.
Shaw’s lawyers say at some point while the man was in custody Gillen grabbed Shaw while he was handcuffed and flipped him over. As a result, Shaw fell on the concrete floor of the jail. Shaw is said to have gone unconscious, “with blood pouring from his head,” according to the lawsuit.
Unable to brace himself while falling on account of the shackles, the inmate fell on his head and wound up fracturing several places along his spine— an injury that ultimately left the Black man paralyzed from his chest down, the Independent reports.
Shaw’s attorney Chance Lynch claims in the lawsuit Shaw, who “clearly showed signs of paralysis” was transported to the hospital for a second time that day. He was quickly released and taken back to the jail, where his client was placed in a wheelchair.
Officers had to lift him and drag him to a dressing room, the claim alleges, to get fitted for the inmate uniform.
It is not clear why the hospital did not diagnose his injury.
He was taken to a cell. He could not move his appendages and though he called for help, did not receive medical attention, the lawsuit states, despite there being aid on the premises. He was left in this debilitating state for about 20 hours.
The lawsuit says a nurse told him, “I won’t help you until you help yourself.”
“This officer, while Mr. Shaw posed no threat to him, flipped him in the air and caused him to land on his head,” Lynch said at a press conference on Thursday, July 14. “He laid there on that floor in that cell begging for help. No one helped him. Using the restroom on himself, he laid on his own feces and urine and they still wouldn’t help him.”
The lawsuit states the man had “defecated and urinated on himself multiple times due to his inability to control his bowels and kidney function.”
By the time law enforcement took him to Baptist Hospital, where he was treated for his injuries, he had already lost movement in 90% of his body.
News 12 reports that a probable cause affidavit states Shaw was acting aggressively when he was booked on that day and was seen pushing officers.
It further noted he “intentionally and knowingly” kicked a cop in the shin and groin, causing him to be restrained and charged with assault on a public servant.
Co-counsel Harry Daniels says the client has been negatively and irreparably impacted by this ordeal and is now no longer able to stand or walk.
The lawyer said, “He was once an able-bodied young man before he was assaulted. He can no longer stand or walk. He is a prisoner of his own body.”
“He spends a majority of his day in bed due to the fact he doesn’t have the resources to hire a full-time caregiver,” Daniels shared.
According to the lawyers, Shaw cannot afford to pay for physical therapy and treatment needed to give him a fighting chance at full recovery, saying the jail’s medical agency, CorrHealth, is also at blame because their employees allegedly ignored Shaw’s petition for medical assistance in those crucial moments after the incident.
Chimeaka White, who is also on the legal team, is calling for full transparency from the BPD and other officials connected to law enforcement in the area. As of publishing, the BPD and the Jefferson County sheriff’s office, which operates the jail, have not released any comments on Shaw’s case or injuries.
In September of 2021, Beaumont Police Chief James Singletary said he felt “very badly about the gentleman that got injured,” and that Gillen “was just doing his job.” However, he did not say anything further about the department’s position on the case or any investigation into excessive force, the Washington Post reports.
“We’re here today to ask for accountability and also transparency. We’re asking for that video to be released.”
“The world needs to know what happened to Mr. Shaw,” White proclaimed.
Lynch adds his client’s case is not an isolated occurrence, saying, “This is happening all over the country.”
“Time and time and time and time again, we see with individuals their rights have been violated by the hands of those who took an oath to protect them.”
For his alleged assault on a officer, a grand jury indicted Shaw.
A plea deal was offered to Shaw, giving him 10 years in prison for assaulting a peace officer. He declined it. Preston Strickland, Shaw’s defense attorney, said they intend on going to trial and this maneuvering is “nothing but a tactic and an attempt to minimize his justice that he deserves.”
Shaw is now bedridden and can only travel in a wheelchair.
No trial date has been set for the criminal case.