The teen, whose first name is not given in the lawsuit, allegedly died at the hands of Huntsville, Alabama, police during an attempted drug bust. His mother, Nancy Smith, filed the lawsuit.
Smith was set up in a drug sting operation facilitated by a police informant. Officers approached Smith during the drug deal, and he ran. The officers were not dressed as cops and did not announce themselves as such.
Smith was caught by an officer and thrown to the ground, suffering injuries. He was cuffed and violently restrained. Officers even pepper-sprayed him.
Matters quickly became much worse.
According to the lawsuit, police were concerned that Smith had swallowed a bag of drugs in an effort to conceal evidence. A medically untrained officer shoved a “sharp oblong object” down Smith’s throat to find the nonexistent drugs:
Upon information and belief, Defendant Officers, without proper training or expertise, shoved a sharp oblong object into Minor N.S.’s throat; however, no bag was found or recovered from the scene nor was a bag found or retrieved from the hospital where Minor N.S. was treated until his death.
The incident happened a year ago, but it took local reporters months to obtain the autopsy report, according to WAFF.
The report listed Smith’s cause of death as undetermined, but asphyxia was suggested as a strong possibility. Some combination of the violent manner in which Smith was restrained and the object shoved down his throat may have deprived his brain of oxygen, killing him.
The report could not rule out a drug overdose. But since Smith’s blood samples were discarded, and never tested, it is impossible to determine whether he had drugs in his system at the time of his arrest.
The suit alleges excessive force and wrongful death, and seeks unspecified punitive damages.