WATCH: TPD releases body cam footage from traffic stop that sparked lawsuit
The Topeka Police Dept. released the body cam video Tuesday showing the confrontation between one of its officers and a suspect, who has since filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming the officer beat him.
Timothy Harris' attorney filed the lawsuit last Wednesday in U.S. District Court, naming the department and the arresting officer, Christopher Janes, as defendants. The case stems from Harris’ January 23rd arrest, in which Janes used force and pepper spray while detaining Harris.
13 NEWS filed an open records request, asking for the body cam video; any use of force reports and/or reviews TPD had on the incident; and any claims or complaints Harris had filed with TPD or the city regarding the incident.
The City Attorney's Office told 13 NEWS no claim nor complaint was filed by Harris prior to the lawsuit, but they did provide the video, a Use of Force report, and a supervisor's inquiry report on the incident.
The body cam video begins with Harris’ car stopped along the street as Janes pulled up. Harris and a woman are inside the car.
In the video, Janes is heard asking why Harris’ girlfriend keeps calling police telling them he has her stuff. Harris contended he had a Victoria’s Secret bag with her clothing in it, and Janes asked about additional claim he has her MacBook.
Janes also told Harris that his vehicle could not be stopped where he was. Harris and his passenger argued they weren’t parked because the engine was still running, and Harris had just gotten in.
The video then shows Janes asking for Harris' identification. As Janes is heard radioing in to dispatch, Harris asked him what was going on, to which Janes replied, “You’re being detained. That’s what’s going on.”
At that point, Harris is seen taking off his jacket, reaching into his pocket, then trying to hand Janes his wallet along with another item.
When Harris started to get out of the car, Janes tells Harris to get back in the car, but Harris remains standing. Janes then turns Harris to face the car and handcuffs him. As Janes tries to move Harris to a patrol vehicle, Harris begins moving around and twisting to talk to Janes. At that point, the men go to the ground, and the woman is heard yelling at Harris, “Stop it, Tim. That is a police officer. You cannot do that.”
The video does not clearly show what unfolds from there. The lawsuit claims Janes repeatedly punched Harris in the face. The police Use of Force report describes the officer using “Empty Hand Control” actions, including a single cross to the face and closed-fist body strikes to Harris' side, and using pepper spray on Harris.
In the Use of Force report, Janes further states that Harris swung his elbow at him, pinched the officer's torso, and "grabbed at weapons on my duty belt, including my firearm."
In the video, Harris is heard saying he could not breathe. Janes could be heard yelling at Harris to stay down, and telling the woman, who was screaming, to stay back.
Fellow TPD officers arrived on the scene. The woman with Harris was restrained, while Harris was allowed back on his feet. Officers are seen evaluating Harris and explaining the effects of the pepper spray as they awaited AMR.
During that time, Harris is heard telling officers he wasn't doing anything, and Janes told Harris he knew Harris had a warrant against him. The booking report from that night shows Harris had a warrant out for violating probation in a misdemeanor drug possession and interference case.
In the lawsuit, Harris claims Janes never said why he was being detained.
The lawsuit stated Harris suffered a bloodied face and a broken jaw during the confrontation. However, the Use of Force report provided to 13 NEWS says Harris had refused AMR treatment at the scene. It also notes that, 30 minutes after the incident, Harris "was sitting inside the Police vehicle without further complaints."
Harris' attorney Andrew Stroth said the video "speaks for itself and is a clear case of excessive force."
"The TPD has historically engaged in a pattern and practice of excessive and unreasonable force and the City of Topeka is liable,” he continued.
13 NEWS asked Stroth when Harris sought treatment for his jaw, but has not received a response.
In the supervisor inquiry obtained by 13 NEWS, TPD's Sgt. Hoa Lam said Janes' actions were in line with his training. Additionally, the tactics were within the department's policy.
Following the January incident, Topeka Municipal Court records show Harris was found guilty of unlawful parallel parking, and interference with a law enforcement officer, but charges of disobeying a lawful police order and battery against an officer were dismissed.
The lawsuit, makes two counts. The first states Janes used excessive force, violating Harris' constitutional right against unreasonable seizure and right to due process. The count states Janes acted "maliciously, wantonly, or oppressively, with the intent to cause injury."
The claims are similar to those made in the lawsuit that Stroth filed on behalf of Dominique White's family. White was shot and killed by two other officers in Sept. 2017 in the Ripley Park area. The Shawnee Co. DA declined to file any criminal charges in White's death.