A Georgia woman is calling on a local county to settle a lawsuit she filed against an officer who brutalized her in her home after she refused to let in a man accused of domestic violence.
Khanay Yancey said the man she evicted from the home called 911 in an attempt to retrieve items from the house in the Atlanta suburb. When she refused to let the man and Clayton County officer who responded to the call inside the house, the cop broke down the door, knocked her to the floor and “roughly handcuffed her,” according to court documents obtained by Atlanta Black Star.
It caused her to have a seizure and require medical assistance. Yancey still walks with a cane two years later, she said.
“I was just hoping that it didn’t turn out where, you know, to where I could have lost my life that day,” Yancey told WSB-TV.
Yancey allowed a friend, the friend’s daughter, and the friend’s boyfriend, Kevin Clark, to live at her home in July 2019. But after a domestic violence incident between Clark and her friend, Yancey said she no longer felt safe with the man in the house and asked him to leave. Court documents show Clark returned the day after he was evicted and attempted to get back in the home, but Yancey refused to let him. The mother said she had children in the home and was trying to protect them.
Yancey filed a lawsuit against Officer Gregory Tillman and Clayton County in June 2020. She alleges Tillman violated her constitutional rights to be free from illegal search and seizure and state law by using excessive force, entering her home unlawfully, false arrest and malicious prosecution.
According to court documents, Clark said he left a remote control, television stand and chess board in Yandy’s house. However, she told Tillman that Clark had taken his belongings and he was not allowed back in the home. She told local station 11 Alive that Clark had been arrested for domestic abuse.
Tillman told the woman to “stop” and “if you’re not going to listen, I’m just going to do what I need to do.”
Yancey told her son to call the police department and asked them to send a supervisor, according to court documents. A dispatcher then routed one to her home after the officer failed to provide his name and badge number, court documents show. Yancy told Tillman she was closing the door until the supervisor arrived, but the officer blocked the doorway with his shoulder, used it to break the door off its frame and entered the house, court documents show.
Body-worn camera footage of the incident showed when the officer entered the house and pounced on Yancey. Court documents allege he “wrenched both “arms behind her back and used his leg to sweep” Yancey’s “legs from underneath her and knock her to the floor” before placing a knee on her back. The woman could be heard on the video screaming as the officer swooped in on her with the camera strapped to him.
“How you gon’ rush me in my own house, and you have no warrant to come in here,” Yancey shouts as the officer arrests her.
Yancey’s son, who witnessed the incident, tells the officer his mother has health problems. However, Tillman did not get off the woman, and she had a seizure.
A police supervisor arrived on the scene and ordered the handcuffs removed, and paramedics treated Yancey. Yancey was cited for misdemeanor obstruction, criminal trespass and family violence, but the charges were later dropped.
Still, Tillman said in a recorded deposition that he broke the door and went inside the home because he “believed that” his “safety was at risk.” However, records show that the supervisor on the scene told Clark he didn’t have the right to enter Yancey’s home without a court order. Tillman told his superior he knocked down the door “because we had the charge of criminal trespass” and that “he feared for his safety” because he “didn’t know what was behind the door.”
An internal affairs review of the incident found that Tillman “incorrectly believed that a crime of Criminal Trespass — Family Violence had occurred, when in fact the matter was purely civil in nature.”
Investigators also found that the officer violated department policy by forcibly entering the home and arresting Yancey. Tillman lacked probable cause to arrest or charge the woman, and Yancey was within her rights to refuse Clark entry into her home, internal affairs found. Tillman also violated the department’s policies on civil disturbances, arrest procedures and use of force, and county civil service rules on unbecoming conduct and improper and negligent performance.
U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee in March rejected a request by Tillman and the county to dismiss the lawsuit. Tillman argued that he had qualified immunity. Boulee said “an officer who executed a warrantless arrest without probable cause may still receive qualified immunity if he had arguable probable cause for the arrest,” but the officer does not argue that he had probable cause. Boulee said the court is not convinced that Tillman had “exigent circumstances,” as he argues. Internal affairs also found that he didn’t.
Boulee also states in his decision that “it was clearly established that the force used by” Tillman was not “reasonably proportionate to the need for that force,” when “measured by the severity of the crime, the danger to the officer, and the risk of flight.” The judge also says that Yancey “met her burden of alleging the violation of a clearly established constitutional right with respect to the malicious prosecution claim.”
Yancey is still awaiting a trial date. She wants Clayton County to settle the case so she can put the incident behind her, Yancey said. The lawsuit accused Tillman of state violations of assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious arrest, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. A police oversight board terminated Tillman before reversing the decision and suspending him for three days with additional training.
“Everyone in Clayton County knows that this officer violated the law. He violated their policies. He violated the Fourth Amendment,” Yancey’s attorney Tanya Miller said. “You cannot hire these officers as employees, send them out into our communities to police and then when they do a terrible, horrific job, pretend like it’s not your responsibility.”
The police department told 11 Alive that it does not comment on pending litigation.