Written By: Jan Skutch
A South Carolina woman who was arrested in a St. Patrick’s Day weekend fight on Broughton Street last year has sued the city of Savannah for alleged misconduct by police officers.
Patricia C. Shields, 23, of Lexington, S.C., last month filed suit in Chatham County State Court for damages stemming from what she contends was intentional and malicious conduct that “caused her to be in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm” during the arrest early March 20.
Only the city is named as a defendant based on alleged improper hiring, training and supervision of Savannah-Chatham police officers at the scene.
In an earlier notice of intent to sue, Shields’ lawyers identified “one or more members” of the local department, including Cpl. Aaron McKie, whom they contended used force they said was “excessive and unreasonable and that caused injury to (Shields’) body.”
It set the loss claim “in excess of $500,000.”
The suit also alleged negligence, false arrest and malicious prosecution and infliction of emotional distress.
The suit, filed by attorney Mark Tate, alleged Shields “at no time” acted inappropriately, behaved aggressively toward the officers “or otherwise presented a danger to herself or anyone around her.”
In response “one or more officers … unreasonably and without justification pepper sprayed” Shields, the suit alleges.
In their defensive response filed Feb. 10, City Attorney James Blackburn and Associate City Attorney Peter Giusti said not only is the city immune from suit and liability in the incident, but neither the city nor any individual officer “acted with malice or an intent to injure” Shields.
In addition, the city responded that probable cause existed to arrest Shields and that all acts that night were “done in good faith performances of the duties imposed on police officers by law.”
Shields and two companions were arrested during a fight with a motorist that was captured on video and posted on YouTube.
In the video, two uniformed officers, both on duty, can be seen entering the scene. One forced Benjamin Tyler Mahaffey of Lexington to the street, striking his legs with a baton. Shields was one of two women involved in the fight and pushes the officer, who chases her away by striking her on the legs with a baton and pepper spraying her face.
After handcuffing the man, the officer pursued the woman who had meandered away, pulled her back to the scene by the back of her jeans, forced her to the street and secured her, the video shows.
Cpl. Aaron McKie arrested Shields, and the second officer, Cpl. Charles Rivera, who arrived with McKie, assisted in that arrest, court records show.
She subsequently pleaded guilty in absentia and had a charge of obstruction reduced to disorderly conduct, city ordinance violation, and a 12-month sentence for public drunkenness suspended, Chatham County Recorder’s Court records show.
McKie was placed on administrative leave pending an internal affairs probe and remains on adminstrative duty with the department.
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