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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

79-Year Old Woman Assaulted by Cops, Lawsuit Alleges

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 9:35 AM

Public Enemy, NWA, Tupac... 79-year-old Velma Fortune, shining a light on police brutality.
  • Public Enemy, NWA, Tupac... 79-year-old Velma Fortune, shining a light on police brutality.

Updated at 11:30 a.m. to include a statement from McPherson Police Chief Dennis Shaw.

Two McPherson, Kansas, police officers snatched the cane of a 79-year-old woman, handcuffed her and dragged her across a parking lot, causing her to have a heart attack, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the district of Kansas.

"If somebody had simply called me and explained me this story," says the woman's lawyer, Matthew Bretz, "I probably wouldn't have believed it.

But he does believe it. Because the entire incident, he says, was caught on video.

The suit accuses officers Richard Rogers and John Farley, of the McPherson Police Department, of violating senior citizen Velma Fortune's civil rights by arresting her without probable cause and then "prying Plaintiff's cane away from her, handcuffing her hands behind her back, dragging her across a parking lot, and dumping her on the pavement," at a Shell gas station on April 13, 2010.

While on the pavement, Fortune had a heart attack and was then rushed to the McPherson Hospital.

"You can hear the breathing problems she was having on the video," says Bretz.

In their official police report, Rogers and Farley claim they did everything by the books. But the eye in the sky doesn't lie. When the officers got out of their cars, the camera behind the windshield of each of their police cruisers (the cameras commonly used on shows with names like World's Wildest Police Chases) automatically turned on, says Bretz.

Why did the police approach Fortune in the first place? Bretz says he can't comment on that because of client confidentiality. (For the record, Fortune has not been charged with any crime.)

In a statement to Daily RFT, McPherson Police Chief Dennis Shaw defends his officers:

On Tuesday 4/13/10, officers responded to a disturbance at a local service station, involving a 79-year-old female, who was very agitated and refused to leave the premises. The officers were unsuccessful in getting the woman to cooperate. She was eventually taken into custody. Pursuant to policy, the person was handcuffed and the cane was removed from the person. She refused to walk with assistance from the officers and she was carried under her arms a short distance in an effort to put her into the patrol car.

Officers Rogers and Farley remain on active duty because "in our opinion they haven't done anything wrong," Shaw adds.

We'll keep you posted as this story develops.

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