The conduct of municipal police in Sherman, Texas in a brutality incident that killed a woman last year has now elicited a lawsuit from the victim’s sister.
Last August, police in Sherman – located about an hour north of Dallas – stopped 51 year-old Lesa Surratt after she allegedly committed a lane change violation. She was taken out of the car and, along with passenger Monica Garza, was placed in the back of a patrol vehicle.
The police report alleges that Garza, seated alongside Surratt in the police cruiser, witnessed Surratt attempt to swallow a small bag of cocaine, and that an officer developed a suspicion that the stop would yield a drug arrest.
So, according to the lawsuit, the officer “climbed in the back seat, across the body of Garza, and began striking Surratt with open fist and then his flashlight to get her to spit up the cocaine.”
That didn’t work, so the officer allegedly started choking Surratt with his flashlight until she passed out.
Courthouse News picks up the complaint:
[Police officers John] Doe 2 and Doe 3 removed Surratt from the vehicle. On the ground, Officer [Brian] McClarin gave the order to “Tase the bitch.” McClarin and Does 2-3 then began hitting Surratt with open hands and flashlights. One of the officers Tased Surratt upon the orders of McClarin. Surratt had lost consciousness as a result of this continuous excessive and deadly force, including being choked with the flashlight in the vehicle.
Officer Does 4-5 arrived and began intimidated [sic] and removing witnesses from the scene of the civil rights violation. They told a witness videotaping the encounter to put away his video phone and go home.
Surratt lay on the ground for 20 minutes or more convulsing in seizures before any of defendants called for an EMT. She was in obvious need of medical treatment from the time she was removed from the patrol car. She was allowed by the officers to continue to deteriorate to the point of being brain dead.
Surratt stayed on life support until Sept. 2, when she died. An autopsy revealed asphyxiation as the cause of her death.
Surratt’s sister, Linda Surratt, filed a Federal lawsuit on Sunday against the City of Sherman, McClarin and four other police officers.
After receiving notice of the suit, Sherman City Attorney Brandon Shelby released a statement to local media pointing out that a Grand Jury declined to move forward with any criminal charges:
On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, while in police custody, Lesa Surratt was able to free herself from handcuffs and retrieve a baggie of a controlled substance (identified as cocaine in the lawsuit) from her person. She attempted to swallow the baggie, became asphyxiated and lost consciousness. She received prompt medical attention, but later died from her injuries.
The actions of the Sherman Police Officers were investigated by the Texas Rangers and the findings were presented to a Grand Jury. No charges were filed and the officers were cleared.