A grocery delivery driver is suing an Ohio police department for $30 million, accusing officers of putting her in a chokehold and slamming her to the ground after a traffic stop.
According to a lawsuit’s complaint, Caitlin Taylor is suing the Sylvania Township Police Department and two of its officers for battery, assault, deprivation of rights and negligence after she was allegedly “manhandled” after being pulled over for expired tags in June 2022.
Taylor was delivering groceries when she got lost and pulled into a driveway as she looked for her delivery destination — while her car was quietly being followed by Officer John Tanner, the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, Taylor, a Michigan resident, was driving with an expired registration tag, an infraction that was not being enforced in her home state because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Taylor was backing out the driveway, Tanner allegedly pulled out his firearm and kneeled behind his police car door with the overhead lights on, according to the complaint.
According to the dashcam footage obtained by HuffPost, Tanner shouted several commands at Taylor, including demanding that she shut her vehicle off and drop the keys out of the window, as he threatened to arrest her and use a Taser on her.
“As I noticed him, he opened up his door and he turned on his light and he stood up and kneeled behind his door with his gun and I was just very taken back by it and that’s when he started to shout to his demands and I just wanted to know what was going on because I was very confused why he was pointing a gun at me,” Taylor told Toledo TV station WTVG in an interview.
Dashcam footage shows Sylvania Township Police officers John Tanner and Michael Wyatt restraining Caitlin Taylor. The footage was provided by her attorney.
Tanner allegedly switched to his Taser and requested backup, then ordered Taylor out of her vehicle and attempted to restrain her without telling her why she was being pulled over or detained, according to the complaint.
“Without any explanation, Plaintiff was then attacked, grabbed, manhandled, spun around, and slammed to ground, all by Officer Tanner,” the complaint reads. “Officer Tanner had her in a body restraint which seemingly was intended to cut off her ability to move, as he then slammed her to the ground and against the vehicle.”
According to the lawsuit, the struggle continued as Officer Michael Wyatt arrived and allegedly put Taylor in chokehold, then Tanner allegedly “threw himself” on top of her.
“I was in the back of the police car for a while, and I still didn’t even know why, and I kept asking him ‘Why am I back here?’ and all he could say to me is ‘For obstructing and resisting.’ When I asked him again, ‘Can you please tell me why you pulled me over?’ he said, ‘You’ll have your day in court,’” Taylor told WTVG.
After being restrained, the lawsuit says, she was read her rights and held for hours. During this time, three more officers arrived to search her vehicle, according to the lawsuit.
According to court records, Sylvania Township is seeking to have the police department removed from the lawsuit, arguing that it cannot be held liable.The Sylvania Township Police Department did not respond to HuffPost’s request for a comment.
Anthony Richardson, the attorney representing Taylor, told HuffPost that she was originally arrested on charges of resisting arrest and obstruction of justice, which were later dismissed.
He added that she deserved to be informed as to why she was being approached and had the right to resist unlawful arrest.
“It actually seems that the officers not only forgot to show care regarding her rights but also forgot she was a human being who deserved to be treated with dignity,” Richardson said. “At all times, the officers were acting under color of law, and the mental and emotional harm they’ve caused, without legal justification to do so, will be long or forever lasting for Mrs. Taylor and her family.”
According to the suit, Taylor went to a hospital after police released her, adding she had multiple bruises over her body and was bleeding as a result of tight handcuffs.
Traumatized, Taylor quit her grocery delivery job in fear that someone would call police and report her as a suspicious person for being lost, according to the lawsuit.
In a statement to HuffPost, the Taylor family said that the officers’ actions have been catastrophic to Taylor’s well being because of abuse she experienced as a child.
“They have caused Caitlin to relive horrible and unsettling emotions, feelings, and memories and their assault adding more layers to her lasting trauma,” the family said. “Her past experience with abuse now has to be shared with the world which until now has been kept out of public scrutiny.”
In the statement, the family also noted their absolute support for law enforcement, thanking the other backup officers who insisted on allowing Taylor to finish her delivery and loosening the handcuffs on her wrists.
“We believe most officers are true to the law. However, we have a duty to hold accountability to those officers who believe they can and choose to act above the law because of their title, position, or uniform,” the statement said. “We urge all officers of the law to remain true to the oath you took and your passion for protecting the peace.”