Tallahassee Cops Beat Woman Bloody

Warning: Some of the language is graphic.

By: Julie Montanaro
September 10, 2013

Tallahassee, FL – A Tallahassee woman claims Tallahassee Police Officers slammed her against a patrol car and then to the pavement when she was arrested for DUI.

Christina West’s Brutal DUI Arrest Police Brutality Tallahassee Cops:

Dash cam video of the arrest was released today. Her attorney calls it “brutal.”

44-year-old Christina West was arrested August 10th after she ran off the road and struck a house in Killearn.

The state attorney calls the dash cam video of the arrest one of the most disturbing videos he’s ever seen.

Christina West was arrested for drunk driving and assaulting an officer on August 10th.

West says officers slammed her face into the patrol car and threw her onto the ground … breaking her cheek bone, bloodying her nose and more. She’s had two surgeries so far.

The video shows officers getting Christina West out of the patrol car and then an officer yelling “Don’t ****ing touch me.” The video shows officers then pushing West onto the back of a patrol car and then to the ground. The video shows officers putting a knee to her neck and proceeding to handcuff her. You can hear West screaming for the men to stop.

“I had a physical reaction to that tape the first time I saw that video. It’s bad,” West’s attorney Fred Conrad said.

Christina West was ultimately put back in the patrol car and taken to the hospital. Her injuries were photographed there. West was brusied on her shoulders, legs and back. Photos show she had a black eye that was swollen shut.

“I don’t care if she was drunker than cooter brown and took a breath test and blew through the moon … that’s not warranted. That’s not okay,” Conrad said.

It happened just after 3am on August 10th. Arrest reports say West plowed through the front wall of a house in Killearn – at the corner of Kilkenny West and Limerick Drive.

The Sawner’s say luckily they were not home that weekend, because the SUV came right through the wall of their bedroom.

“It pushed our bed all the way to the back side of the house…and tore it all to pieces,” homeowner Bobbie Sawner said. She said she’s glad to be alive and glad the woman and the teens with her survived the crash too.

When officers Ormerod and Smidt arrived on scene, they put West through a series of field sobriety tests. They say she was slurring her words and had trouble keeping her balance. The video was all captured by a camera in Officer Smidt’s car.

The confrontation started when officers asked West to get out of the car to sign a breath test consent form. You can hear her say “Yes,sir” on the tape, but she continued to ask about her husband and her childrens’ car seats.

Here’s how Officer Chris Ormerod described what happened when he tried to place her in handcuffs.

He wrote in his incident report: “West was placed on the ground where she began to thrash and kick wildly. West kicked me in the groin area and kicked officer Schmidt in the leg.” He goes on to write, “West was placed in a thigh lock on the ground as I secured her hands. While handcuffing West’s hands, she continued to violently make attempts to grab for my groin area with her hands.”

West was charged with driving under the influence, battery on a law enforcement offier and aggravated assault on an officer.

“It was a very disturbing video to me,” State Attorney Willie Meggs said.

Meggs says the DUI case is still pending, but he has dropped the battery and assault charges and is still trying to figure out what to do next.

“I didn’t see anything in the video that would cause me to believe that this woman needed anybody to use any type of force or restraint on her,” Meggs said.

We have asked both Tallahassee Police and the city attorney for comment. They have not yet responded.

The video shows West did consent to a breathalyzer test on scene, but it never happened because of the scuffle. In their reports, officers say, she refused a blood test at the hospital.

Meanwhile, in another State,

Dana Holmes was drunk, naked and being recorded on video.

The 33-year-old was facedown on the floor of a LaSalle County jail cell while cameras captured images of her nude body on the facility’s video system. Minutes earlier, four deputies — three men and a woman — had pulled her to the ground and carried her into the cell, where they quickly and forcibly stripped Holmes and walked out with her clothes.

“There was no excuse or anything to give them a reason to put their hands on me,” said Holmes, who filed a federal lawsuit against LaSalle County authorities Monday. “I was just scared. I didn’t want them to have any reason to come back inside.”


Holmes, whose blood-alcohol level registered nearly three times the legal limit when she was arrested for drunken driving earlier in the night, said she lay on the floor crying. After a few minutes, the cell door opened, and a deputy tossed in a pile of blankets and what authorities describe as a “padded suit.”

More than an hour later, when deputies fingerprinted and photographed Holmes, she was covered only in one of the blankets wrapped around her body, the jail video showed. It was provided to the Tribune by Holmes’ attorneys. The images show several male officers entering the room as a still-inebriated Holmes struggles to keep the blanket around her shoulders while being fingerprinted.

Holmes, who lives in Coal City and works at a local convenience store, alleges the LaSalle County sheriff’s department and four deputies violated her civil rights after her May arrest and caused her emotional harm by stripping her naked without legal justification for such a search.

Her lawyer, Terry Ekl, said he planned to seek a meeting with the LaSalle County state’s attorney to contend the officers committed official misconduct by deliberately strip-searching Holmes without justification.

“It’s not only a violation of her civil rights. It’s also a crime,” said Ekl, who provided the Tribune with copies of the video as well as written reports filed by sheriff’s officers and Marseilles police. The lawyer said the video and documents were produced by authorities in court as part of her DUI case.

LaSalle County Sheriff Thomas Templeton said he had not seen the video or the reports, and was not even aware of the incident when the Tribune contacted him. He said the county would be unlikely to comment on an incident involving litigation. In the written incident report sheriff’s officers filed, they said Holmes was uncooperative while being searched. She was informed she would remain in the padded cell “until she sobers up and was willing to cooperate and not fight with deputies,” according to the report.

Sheriff’s officers did not note any justification for removing her clothes, nor did they note any suspicion that she was hiding a weapon or drugs. She had already been searched by Marseilles police officers who arrested her, according to their report. She also was monitored by a female Marseilles officer while she used the bathroom at the police station there.

Under Illinois law, a strip-search is permitted only when officers have a “reasonable belief” that the subject is hiding a weapon or a controlled substance on their body. The law also requires that the strip-search be done by an officer of the same sex as the subject and cannot be observed by people not conducting the search.

An expert on criminal procedure said it was hard to see what legal justification sheriff’s officers may have believed they had for a strip-search, regardless of Holmes’ demeanor.

“Nothing in the statute says resisting arrest is justification for a strip-search,” said Len Cavise, who teaches criminal law at the DePaul University College of Law.

The incident began about 10:50 p.m. May 18, when a Marseilles police officer spotted a 2008 silver Ford Focus speeding through town, according to the arrest report. Holmes was driving. The arresting officer noted that she apologized for speeding and said she was not familiar with the area and had just come from a wedding with her boyfriend, who appeared to be too drunk to drive.

On the video and audio recording from the police car’s camera, Holmes appeared to be cooperative as she failed a field sobriety test and was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. She volunteered to take an alcohol breath test, which registered 0.226, far over the 0.08 legal limit. The DUI report filed two days later by the Marseilles officer stated that Holmes “seemed confused” about her car being impounded but otherwise did not describe her demeanor during the car ride to the jail.

But in their report filed a couple of hours after Holmes was released early May 19, sheriff’s officers said the Marseilles police officer who arrested and transported her told LaSalle County officials that Holmes was “being mouthy and causing problems.”

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