An Alabama man has filed a federal lawsuit against a local deputy, claiming he had to have his hand amputated after the deputy painfully handcuffed him for hours, causing his fingers to turn black.
In a lawsuit filed last month but recently surfaced by local media, Giovanni Loyola claims a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy’s excessive force last year violated his civil rights and led to debilitating injuries.
“I felt really bad, and I started breaking down and crying,” Loyola told AL.com of his reaction to doctors saying his hand couldn’t be saved after four operations.
The 26-year-old was watching television at his mother’s home in Pinson, northeast of Birmingham, on Feb. 16, 2020, when he said deputies came to his door and forcefully pulled him outside when he answered. He says one deputy, identified in the lawsuit as Godber, slammed him against a car and then to the ground. The deputy then punched him in the face and handcuffed him, according to a copy of the suit obtained by HuffPost.
A police report of the incident said authorities had received a call about two possibly armed men fighting in the neighborhood, according to Loyola’s lawsuit.
Loyola said he maintained his innocence throughout his arrest and repeatedly requested that his handcuffs be loosened as one of his hands started to turn numb. As he was pinned to the ground, with Godber allegedly forcing his knee into his back, two deputies went into his mother’s trailer without a search warrant to perform what they said was a “safety sweep,” his suit states.
“The deputies did not have a warrant to enter the home, and there
were no exigent circumstances that would allow them to enter the home
without a warrant,” the suit states.
Godber described Loyola as drunk and physically combative with deputies in a later report to the magistrate, which was obtained by AL.com
“Giovanni Loyola was intoxicated and arguing with family members so loud inside his residence it could be heard from the public roadway,” the report states.
Loyola was taken to jail on charges of disorderly conduct/disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. He was released on Feb. 28 after serving extra time for outstanding warrants for past traffic violations and for failure to appear, according to AL.com. The day of his release, he sought medical care for his hand, which was still causing him extreme pain after he’d been locked in a constricted handcuff for several hours, his suit states.
Loyola received a surgical consultation and was hospitalized after complaining that his fingertips had turned gray. He was discharged on March 2 but returned a little more than two weeks later due to ongoing extreme pain in his fingers. He continued to return to the hospital in the months afterward for treatment, but due to his injuries, his left hand ultimately had to be amputated, his suit states.
Loyola’s lawsuit seeks relief against Godber for compensatory damages, including extreme emotional distress, physical pain, loss of income, legal fees, and medical expenses. He also seeks punitive damages, “sufficient to punish him and to deter further wrongdoing.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on Thursday.
Severe injuries from handcuffs are “extremely rare,” Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, which provides training and education to law enforcement personnel, told The Washington Post.
There are a number of potential factors that could contribute to them, however. These include an officer failing to activate a double-lock that prevents the handcuff from tightening on its own, particularly when the person wearing them fidgets or moves around, he said.
“Sometimes they’re getting tighter and the officer isn’t even aware of it unless the person complains about it,” he said.
Lawsuits claiming permanent nerve damage from handcuffs have been filed elsewhere across the country, including in New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
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