Exactly two years ago, Lawrenceville, Ga., police shocked a registered nurse with a Taser and arrested her after she refused to grant the cops access to a patient suspected of sexual assault at the psychiatric unit where she worked. Now, the woman has filed a Federal lawsuit against them.
Marthe Bien-Aime, who is suing officers Christy Vice, Mark Tinkey, C.L. Hyatt and Shawn Humphreys, alleges the police subjected her to excessive force in the Oct. 31, 2011 incident. Bien-Aime greeted the police when they showed up in response to a call alleging the patient had sexually abused another patient, but she would not allow them access to the suspect until she had obtained permission from her unit supervisor.
Bien-Aime, who was working at the Summit Ridge mental health facility in Lawrenceville, told the cops she had sworn an oath to protect her patients and that she simply needed to call her nursing director for permission to let the officers into the unit where the suspect was being treated.
But the officers claimed to have an arrest warrant for the patient and threatened to arrest her for obstruction unless she broke her own code of professional ethics, for which she herself is accountable before the law, by giving them immediate access to the patient.
From the complaint:
21. The Defendant officers had a piece of paper that they said was a warrant, but they did not allow Nurse Bien-Aime to read it, so she was unable to confirm whether it was a warrant or what patient it was for.
22. Nurse Bien-Aime then called the Director of Nursing, Shelley Beaubrun, and told her what was happening with the police officers. Ms. Beaubrun asked to speak with the officers and Nurse Bien-Aime held out the phone so that they could speak to her.
23. The officers refused to speak with Ms. Beaubrun and said they were going to arrest Nurse Bien-Aime for obstructing justice.
24. As Nurse Bien-Aime remained behind the counter in the nurse’s station, waiting for guidance from Ms. Beaubrun on the telephone, Lt. Tinkey burst through the door to the nursing station, followed by Officers Hyatt and Humphreys, and Defendant Vice grabbed the phone and began speaking to Ms. Beaubrun.
25. Lt. Tinkey, Officer Hyatt, and Officer Humphreys grabbed Nurse Bien-Aime’s hands and arms and began twisting her arms backward. Then they threw her to the floor with great force and shackled her wrists with a chain and handcuffs.
26. Nurse Bien-Aime cried out in pain due to the tightness of the handcuffs, as well as from the aggravation of an old left shoulder injury and new injuries to other parts of the body resulting from Defendants’ unreasonable and unjustified use of force against her.
27. She asked the Defendant officer several times to loosen the handcuffs but they would not do it.
28. When they got her off the floor and began escorting her out, Nurse Bien-Aime had difficulty walking and the Defendant officers kept shoving her.
29. After going through a set of double doors in the hallway, Nurse Bien-Aime lost her balance and fell to the floor. The Defendant officers yelled for her to get up but she was not able to, and they told her they would drag her if she didn’t get up.
30. Officer Vice said “let’s tase her” and then they proceeded to do so.
Bien-Aime was taken to the Gwinnett County Detention Center, subjected to a body search, given ice for her bruises and — after waiting for an arrest warrant to be issued — charged with obstruction of justice.
Atlanta’s WSB-TV News recently obtained a video of the incident. Recorded by a surveillance camera inside the mental health facility, the video shows four officers throwing Bien-Aime to the ground and handcuffing her. “Then,” reporter Craig Lucie writes, “two officers dragged her out of the nurse station and one of the officers hit her on the back.”
At the moment the officer struck Bien-Aime, she was already safely in custody with her hands cuffed behind her back. She was walking down the hallway with an officer escorting her at either side.