Travis Richardson is suing two Virginia cops for assault and battery and excessive force, among other claims. The officers tased him in his own home in August 2019, after he denied them permission to search for a suboxone prescription that he said he had but they insisted he did not.
The story began when Richardson had a drug-related medical emergency, prompting a relative to call for emergency medical assiatance. Fire and rescue pros were already helping Richardson when the police arrived. Richardson told the officers that he had taken suboxone, and he insisted that he had a prescription for it. The cops insisted that he did not, and they asked to see proof. According to his lawsuit, Richardson "provided the name of his doctor to Deputy Smith" and "pointed in the direction of his bedroom" to indicate where the prescription might be, but did not give permission for the officers to search for it.
Video of the interaction that resulted, including the tasing, can be seen in this tweet from Richardson's lawyer, Joshua Erlich:
CW: police violence
Watch as Dep. Daren Smith of @SpotsySheriff calmly tells Travis Richardson "I'm gonna tase you bro" and attacks Travis from behind. Travis calls out to his grandma for help. Smith tases him again.
Illegal. Unprovoked. Unconstitutional. pic.twitter.com/WwGMZoSwk6
— Joshua Erlich (@JoshuaErlich) December 6, 2021
According to the lawsuit, Spotsylvania County Deputy Thomas Grasso grabbed Richardson from his bathroom. Richardson was asking why this was happening when Deputy Daren Smith "approached Mr. Richardson from behind and said, 'I'm going to tase you.' At that time, Mr. Richardson was compliant and non-threatening. Deputy Smith had not given Mr. Richardson any verbal instruction and Mr. Richardson had not demonstrated anything other than a willingness to comply with the instructions given to him by the deputies."
Smith attacked Richardson with the taser. The deputy "continued to press the taser into Mr. Richardson's back as he fell to the ground screaming and tased Mr. Richardson for approximately five (5) seconds."
Richarson fell and cried for help to his grandmother. The suit says, and the video confirms, that the officers then "pushed Mr. Richardson onto his stomach, face down on the floor, with his arms behind his back. Despite Mr. Richardson being completely subdued and restrained, Deputy Smith pulled the trigger again on his taser again while pressing it into Mr. Richardson's hip. Deputy Smith instructed Mr. Richardson for the first time, 'Put your hands behind your back or I'm going to tase you again.'"
Grasso was at this point very angry at the helpless man he'd attacked in his home during a medical emergency, shouting at him while he was face down on his floor: "You're not going to tell us we have no permission to be here!" They also shouted at him for having fallen on their taser.
According to the lawsuit, another deputy informed Richardson, as Smith and Grasso took him to an ambulance, that "you are not under arrest. You are being treated."
The officers also reportedly stole Richardson's phone from his home and have yet to return it.
Grasso later asserted that Richardson had ordered them to leave his house and had refused to put his hands behind his back for them. The police video do not support these claims.
Richardson's suit declares, not unreasonably, that the cops decided to tase the man "based solely on Mr. Richardson having denied them consent to perform a warrantless search of his residence." The officers hit Richardson with some felony charges that the suit says were retaliatory lies, including "disarming a law enforcement officer of a stun gun" and "felony assault of a law officer."
The suit alleges that Smith told Richardson they were making those charges to ensure he didn't get bail, which indeed he did not for weeks after the arrest. His charges were reduced to misdemeanors before trial.
Richardson's suit seeks "compensatory damages in an amount of approximately
$600,000.00," "punitive damages as to each of his respective Counts against
Defendant in an amount to be determined at trial, but no greater than $350,000.00 per count" plus attorney's fees, and "injunctive relief requiring that law enforcement officers employed by the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office undergo training on the proper use of force and methods for interacting with individuals suffering from mental health or drug-related problems."