A 36-year-old Mesa woman suing a Gilbert police officer said she still suffers from a head injury a year and a half after he allegedly pushed her down during an arrest, causing her to face-plant on concrete.
“She’s had severe headaches since this happened,” said J. Scott Halverson, a Tempe attorney representing Samantha A. Glass. “She is also under the care of a neurologist who is trying to determine if there’s cognitive deficits that could be there.”
Halverson recently filed a federal lawsuit against Gilbert Officer Christopher Robinson alleging he violated Glass’ civil rights by “intentionally using unreasonable, unnecessary and excessive force.”
Halverson said he did not know what Glass, who still works full time, has spent so far for medical bills but that it was an on-going cost.
The lawyer said he has not received a response yet from Robinson on the suit and police declined comment.
“We are unable to provide any commentary on pending civil litigation,” said Sgt. Mark Marino, a spokesman for Gilbert Police.
Marino said the department reviewed this case when it occurred and found “there were no policy violations noted” and that Robinson remains on full-duty status.
The incident unfolded on the evening of March 9, 2018 when Gilbert police responded to a possible vehicle burglary call at an apartment complex near Civic Center Drive and Warner Road.
A resident reported seeing a woman — later identified as Glass — trying to break into a truck and that she appeared intoxicated, according to the police report.
Robinson found Glass sitting quietly outside the door of her ex-boyfriend’s apartment on the second floor, according to the officer’s body camera.
What started off as a friendly exchange between the two soon escalated as Robinson repeatedly asked Glass what she was doing to her ex-boyfriend’s truck even after she responded with either “nothing” or she didn’t know what he was talking about.
The officer in his report noted Glass’ eyes were bloodshot and watery, her speech was extremely slurred and he detected alcohol on her breath.
“I’m not doing anything to his truck,” she said. “We have a shared everything, vehicle-wise, bill-wise, everything.”
Robinson then asked for a driver’s license or ID but she said she didn’t have it.
During an exchange, he repeatedly asked for her last name, but she shrugged her shoulders and refused to tell him.
“Do you want me to put you in handcuffs right now then?” he asked.
“What did I do?” she asked. “I’m just sitting here waiting for him.”
“How about attempted car burglary?” Robinson said. “If you like, we could go there.”
Glass shouted, “How about you hold on and I’ll get him on the phone right now because I’m not f*****g doing anything wrong.”
She continued to swear, at one point shouting, “You’re the one with the problem, not me, not him.”
She dialed her cellphone for her ex but got no response and mocked Robinson as he put on latex gloves.
He responded he was about to grab hold of her and put her in handcuffs.
“No, you’re not,” she said as she walked away.
Robinson was seen in the video behind Glass holding her right upper arm and wrist, telling her she was not free to leave. She started swearing, then pushed her right elbow back toward Robinson and was slammed to the ground with a loud slap.
Robinson’s report said due to Glass’ active resistance and aggression, he conducted a leg sweep to her right leg in an attempt to push her elbow to the ground to handcuff her.
Halverson said Glass was not trying to hit Robinson with her elbow.
“He said, ‘you’re going to be arrested,’ she panicked,” he said. “Common response from someone not accustomed to being arrested. She panicked and that is a scary thing especially when impaired with alcohol.”
Court records show Glass was convicted of drunk driving in 2010. In 2011 she faced charges that include a DUI and driving with a suspended/revoked or canceled license, which the court later dismissed all the charges.
Halverson said Robinson helped escalate the situation.
“Let her calm down and go down the stairs to a safer place,” he said. “Why can’t you take time to let the thing de-escalate?”
Instead, the officer’s attitude was “now she has disobeyed my command and I’m taking her down,” Halverson added.
Halverson said he’ll let a jury view the video and judge for themselves if she threw her elbow or if she was trying to break free of his grasp.
“There’s an appropriate time to use force,” he said. “The question is, is this one of them? A female who is impaired and an officer who is bigger and did he feel threatened?”
In the video, Glass is faced down and sobbing as Robinson told her she was being detained.
Three officers rushed up the stairs as she was cuffed, blood from her face splattered on the landing.
Police found no evidence of damage or entry to the red truck.
Glass pleaded guilty to a DUI and was found guilty of interfering with a police officer, according to court records. Her blood alcohol concentration was .199, more than double the legal limit, according to a lab report.
Glass spent one day in jail, has nearly $3,000 in fines and an ignition interlock device installed in her vehicle for a year.
“She has taken responsibility for her poor judgment,” Halverson said. “She has fines and is making payments so she still has consequences for her poor judgment. On the other hand, I’m not aware of any consequences the officer had to face for his conduct.”
He said most police agencies have policies to instruct officers to take extra precaution with those who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
“If someone is intoxicated and you are there with them and detaining them, you've got to watch out for their safety,” Halverson said.
He said not only did Robinson not take extra precautions to make sure Glass did not get hurt but he caused her to get hurt.
“She continues to work, she continues to be a mom to her (two) children,” the lawyer added.
“This is a day she used poor judgment and consumed too much alcohol and she regrets it but this is not Samantha Glass,” he added. “It’s a very small glimpse of one particular point in time and to judge her character by her behavior in the video is really sad. It’s not fair.”