A Black motorist driving with his family in Taylor, Michigan was pulled over, beaten up and tased multiple times by the cops in front of his young child after his temporary paper license plate unknowingly fell off of his car. Now, he and his girlfriend are suing the five officers involved and the city in federal court for excessive force.
“The events we allege in the complaint represent serious misconduct by Taylor police against our client, causing lasting harm to the whole family,” Julie Porter, the attorney representing Imani Ringgold-D’Abell and his girlfriend La’Shanna Taylor. “This should never happen to anyone again, and we hope this lawsuit will bring accountability to Taylor.”
Portions of the police bodycam footage of the arrest was published by local Detroit news station Fox 2. The footage was also shared with VICE News by the family’s legal team.
On Sept. 13, 2019, Ringgold-D’Abell and Taylor, were driving to a dentist appointment for their three-year-old daughter who was sitting in the backseat. The couple had just moved to Taylor, Michigan from their home in Illinois in order to be closer to Taylor’s family.
Ringgold-D’Abell had purchased a used SUV to get around their new home state and received a temporary registration permit and paper license plate to last him up to 90 days while he waited for the official permit to arrive. Also prior to his move, Ringgold-D’Abell had lost his Illinois driver’s license and was in the process of waiting for a replacement from the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles.
He’d been given a temporary paper driver’s license by the state, and as a backup measure, Ringgold-D’Abell also kept a photo of his original license to ensure he could be identified if needed.
As the couple made their way to the dentist, a Taylor Police Department lieutenant noticed the SUV operating without a license plate and pulled the vehicle over. Ringgold-D’Abell had not realized that the temporary paper license plate hanging from where the permanent plates would go had fallen off during a car wash.
Though Ringgold-D’Abell provided the officer with both a photo of his Illinois license and the car’s license plate number as well as a brief explanation of why he was short on proper license and registration, the cop called for backup.
Four additional officers arrived on the scene as the lieutenant checked the license number. Even after realizing that both the plates and the car checked out, the officers assumed that his license must have been expired or not in good standing, the lawsuit alleges. When Ringgold-D’Abell provided the officers with information about his active Illinois driver’s license, but they still decided to take him into custody for failure to carry a driver’s license.
The lieutenant informed Ringgold-D’Abell that he was being arrested. Ringgold-D’Abell tried once more to present the officers his paperwork and temporary ID to no avail. One of the officers then opened the SUV door, and grabbed Ringgold-D’Abell by the wrist. The group surrounded the motorist before the lieutenant shoved him against the door that his young daughter was next to as two more officers pressed him against the vehicle.
When Taylor stepped out of the car, the two other officers allegedly restrained her and pushed her back into the vehicle, before handcuffing her and walking her over to the patrol car.
“Stop! You’re hurting me!” Taylor said. “Stop! My daughter’s in the car!”
Meanwhile, officers punched Ringgold-D’Abell in the stomach as the others held him against the car. After he stumbled to the ground, the lieutenant on the scene told the other officers to tase him. The lawsuit alleges that Ringgold-D’Abell held his hands in the air hoping to once again de-escalate the situation but the officer fired the taser anyway. The cops ordered Ringgold-D’Abell to get on the ground, but before he could comply the officer discharged his taser again.
The officers continued to threaten him after he laid on the floor face up. After complying with orders to lay prone, Ringgold-D’Abell was tased once more from behind, this time with the taser flush against his body, the lawsuit alleges.
After the alleged assault, the cops search the vehicle and found nothing but candy. One officer complained of having to replace their taser cartridges while another said the altercation likely ruined his new tattoo. Ringgold-D’Abell’s daughter had been left in the car alone for 10 minutes, crying as her father was battered by police and her mother was handcuffed and taken away.
Ms. Taylor was eventually released from custody to tend to her daughter. Ringgold-D’Abell was taken to Taylor Police Department’s jail, where he spent three days before posting bond and being released on pretrial conditions. The arrest report that police filed allegedly says that Ringgold-D’Abell disobeyed officer orders and was resisting arrest. He was charged with speeding, lacking proof of insurance, a registration and plate violation, failing to display a valid license, and interfering with police authority
The charges against Ringgold-D’Abell remain pending, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also claims that Wayne County prosecutors offered to dismiss the charges if Ringgold-D’Abell dropped civil claims related to his brutal arrest, which he declined to do. However, the county denies that they offered Ringgold-D’Abell such a deal.
The attack left Ringgold-D’Abell with a neck brace, cuts and bruises on his face and upper body. He was also left with puncture wounds from being tased multiple times. The lawsuit also alleges the encounter left the family in financial ruin due to medical costs, fees for his impounded vehicle, legal bills, and insurance costs. The financial struggles left the family unable to keep the used car, forcing Ringgold-D’Abellto to live with his dad. Taylor on the other hand had to take off from work to stay with the couple’s daughter who was traumatized by the arrest.
In addition to suing for excessive force, the family is suing for unlawful seizure and false arrest, failure to intervene, malicious prosecution, assault and battery and emotional distress and violating their first and 14th Amendment rights. They are asking to be compensated for the financial damages incurred by the arrest, the amount of which they request to be determined in court.
At least three of the officers involved in Ringgold-D’Abellto’s arrest were involved in prior instances of violent police encounters. One of cops was involved in the Nov. 2014 arrest of a Black man who was tased multiple times and beaten despite showing no signs of resistance. Another one of the officers was involved in brutal arrests that took place in March and May 2015 and February 2019. A third officer was also involved in the May 2015 incident.
The Taylor Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.