Federal lawsuit filed against Fayetteville police for violent arrest; lawyers say body cam footage to be released ‘soon’

Federal lawsuit filed against Fayetteville police for violent arrest; lawyers say body cam footage to be released ‘soon’

Updated: 3 months, 13 days, 12 hours, 39 minutes, 32 seconds ago

By Gilbert Baez, Maggie Brown

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    FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina (WRAL) — Two civil rights attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit against the Fayetteville Police Department for constitutional violations on behalf of a 22-year-old woman who was arrested in her car on private property.

Video taken by the woman arrested, Ja’Lana Dunlap, from Fayetteville, shows her being yanked out of her vehicle by officers, slammed against her vehicle and being asked for her I.D. The federal lawsuit alleges she was then placed in handcuffs.

Dunlap was arrested and then eventually let go because police did not find that she did anything wrong, according to Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins.

Hawkins said police were looking for a “potentially” dangerous man at the time and in the area where Dunlap was taking photographs in a vacant lot.

Dunlap said she taking pictures of the lot for her employer. She was in her parked car when police approached her, according to her two attorneys, Harry Daniels and Carnell Johnson.

The video Dunlap took only shows about one minute of the police encounter, and Daniels and Johnson are pushing for more. According to the federal lawsuit, police took her phone and threw it on the ground, ending her recording.

Hawkins made a request to the N.C. Superior Court to release the two officers’ body camera footage. In North Carolina, police departments have to petition the court to release their officers’ body camera footage.

Dunlap’s lawyers said there was a court hearing on Tuesday to release the body camera footage. Johnson said it would be released “soon.”

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday alleges that the two Fayetteville police officers who detained Dunlap — Ryan Haddock and Amanda Bell — did not have enough “reasonable suspicion” to do so.

‘You’re supposed to protect and serve’ Johnson and Dunlap had harsh words for law enforcement during Tuesday’s press conference, asserting that the officers, who were both white, would not have used violence against Dunlap if she was also white.

“You never know, being African-American, if your life can end by police, even if you didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.

Dunlap said she hopes by suing the Fayetteville Police Department, she can speak up for others who can’t. She knows that violence from police against the Black community is a persistent problem and hopes to usher change into Fayetteville.

“You have to speak up for yourself,” she said.

Johnson warned that violent encounters like these are ones that lead to deaths at the hands of police.

“This is not a case where somebody has been buried in the ground,” he said. “But this is the type of case where these things start, and these things happen.”

Dunlap had a message to the Fayetteville officers who hurt her, “You’re supposed to protect and serve, not harm innocent people.”

Lawsuit: Dunlap’s constitutional rights were violated The lawsuit says her Fourth Amendment rights were violated when officers “wrongfully and unjustifiably stopped, seized, and arrested [Dunlap] when Bell and Haddock surrounded and interrogated [Dunlap], thereby restricting her movement, and subsequently dragged her out of her vehicle, took her vehicle keys, and her placed in her handcuffs.”

Dunlap said her refusal to provide the Fayetteville police officers with her I.D. prompted the officers to be more aggressive in questioning her.

Under North Carolina law, individuals are not required to identify themselves except under certain circumstances, like a traffic violation, Johnson pointed out.

The federal lawsuit is seeking damages of more than $75,000 for injuries and degradation Dunlap suffered during the arrest.

After being pushed against her vehicle and handcuffed, the lawsuit says Dunlap began to have trouble breathing. She has an underlying condition of sickle-cell anemia, which contributed to her being unable to breathe.

She started breathing irregularly and began vomiting, the lawsuit says, and tried to bend down and vomit.

“Bell and Haddock continued yanking on [Dunlap] for her to stand upright,” according to the lawsuit. “[Dunlap] pleaded with and begged officers to let her kneel down to vomit, but they continued to hold her against the vehicle.”

“As [Dunlap] was vomiting in pain, officers opened [her] fanny pack without her consent and took out [her] identification card,” the lawsuit continues.

Johnson wants the police body camera video to be released to show this incident and shed light on what happened to Dunlap when her phone turned off.

The lawsuit says that Fayetteville Police Sgt. Kempf arrived to the scene and saw Dunlap in pain. When he did, he immediately uncuffed her and spoke with the two officers on the scene. Dunlap was eventually given her keys back and allowed to leave, according to the lawsuit.

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