An Illinois man plans to take legal action after an encounter with Indiana police left him with a broken jaw, broken cheekbones and several missing teeth.
Darrell Rhyme and his girlfriend, Jamesha McChristine, were on their way from Chicago to his godson’s basketball game in Greensburg, Indiana, when they stopped for gas. McChristine was the driver, and Rhyme noticed once they were at the station two patrol cars seemed to have followed them.
Greensburg Police said officers pulled the red Volkswagen Jetta over for “numerous violations” on March 3.
When officer Kaitlin Jackowicz walked up to the vehicle, she noticed the strong smell of marijuana coming from inside, the department said in a statement. McChristine reportedly gave the cops false identification documents.
That’s when Jackowicz told Rhyme to ” ‘step out of the car,’ ” he told Atlanta Black Star.
“I said, ‘Why do I need to get out the car?’ ” Rhyme said during a FaceTime interview.
He has difficulty speaking and is currently taking medication that numbs the pain in his face. He is scheduled to undergo surgery on his nose and cheeks in early April.
“I said, ‘What I got to get out the car for?’ She said, ‘Step out the car before I snatch you out the car.’ “
Rhyme said out of fear of what would happen next, he told McChristine to drive off. She shifted the gear and sped away. Rhyme, who is Black, said he didn’t know much about the mostly-white town they were driving through. Greensburg is 91 percent white.
Greensburg Police said McChristine drove over 100 mph and led officers on a chase before the pair got out of the car that was low on fuel and ran.
“During the foot pursuit Rhyme ignored the commands of the officers to stop resisting,” Greensburg Police said in a statement. “A Taser was deployed by an assisting agency and Rhyme was taken into custody.”
Greensburg Police said Rhyme was taken to a hospital for treatment for injuries from a fall during the pursuit. He said police used the Taser on his head, and he blacked out. However, his attorney argues that his injuries are inconsistent with just a fall, and he surrendered before the officers shocked him.
“Their version is that he was tased, he fell, and that’s how he was so injured,” his attorney GiGi Gilbert said. “However, he has a broken jaw, two broken orbitals, broken cheekbones, five to six missing teeth all in front.”
Gilbert believes Rhyme was hit in the face after being shocked by the Taser. She said her client was racially profiled and officers used excessive force. The attorney has filed a tort claim notice against Greensburg, Decatur County, Jackowicz and Decatur County sheriff’s deputy Niculy Polley.
“They messed me up real good. They almost killed me,” Rhyme told Atlanta Black Star.
The Decatur County Prosecutor’s Office said it has over four-and-a-half hours of body-camera, in-car camera and surveillance footage of the incident. Gilbert has requested copies.
Rhyme was just facing misdemeanor offenses of resisting arrest and marijuana possession until the legal notice was sent. Now he has a felony identity deception charge.
“Even a small amount of marijuana or something, a passenger in a vehicle who’s not the driver, there’s no way their face should look like that. The end,” said Gilbert.
His girlfriend, McChristine is still being held in jail on a $100,000 bond for forgery (possession, production, or distribution of false government identification), deception, reckless driving, interfering with law enforcement, possession of a controlled substance, and operating while never obtaining a driver’s license. His family has started an online fundraiser to help with the woman’s release.
Rhyme on Monday said he was being cared for by his mother while he prepares for a second surgery. His nose is still broken, and he has to now get plates in his cheeks, chin and other parts of his face.
The Greensburg Police Department did not respond to Atlanta Black Star’s requests for additional comments. Rhyme said the FBI has reached out to investigate the case.
However, a representative for the federal agency told Atlanta Black Star that it is against the U.S. Department of Justice’s policy to “confirm or deny the existence of investigations.”
Rhyme said he wants the officers involved in his arrest to be charged and “pay for what they did to him.”
He added, “I surrendered and everything. They didn’t have to tase me in my head, and they didn’t have to hit me like this,” he said. “They didn’t have to do me like this.”