Alabama police used a taser on a teenage girl three times as she had a grand mal seizure—then made jokes about her at the hospital, a bombshell lawsuit claims. Cops also allegedly tased the girl’s mother in the back.
Michelle Lee Helm says her daughter was at a hip-hop concert in Rainbow City on Jan. 16 when the star, Kevin Gates, entered the crowd and prompted a “stampede” that trampled the girl, according to the complaint.
The details of the suit, filed July 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, paint a disturbing narrative of alleged police brutality. The 32-page complaint targets Rainbow City—a town of 9,600—as well as its police chief, individual officers, the nearby city of Gadsden, and the concert venue, Center Stage.
The day of the concert, the unnamed victim had a seizure at her high school, where paramedics were called and she was administered medication via an intravenous needle, the lawsuit claims. By the 8 p.m. showtime, however, the girl was ready to join her friends for the performance.
The chaos started after Gates joined the audience, and the girl was knocked over and had another seizure. After the crowd backed away, a worker for the venue “unceremoniously dumped” the high-schooler to the lobby floor—where she had a second episode, the lawsuit says.
At least eight police officers were apparently at the scene. But instead of helping the girl, cops allegedly restrained her, then tased her when she attempted to check on her mother, who was also detained and tased in the back, court papers charge.
Helm, clad in pajamas, had arrived just after the girl’s second convulsion. The mom claims she was barred from helping her daughter and restrained by police. A Center Stage employee also put her in a chokehold, the suit claims.
One six-foot-tall, 200-pound Rainbow City officer allegedly pushed Helm to her knees and held her hands behind her back. The officer told another cop, “Get her,” the lawsuit says.
When the second officer hesitated, the officer ordered, “Do it,” and he used the stun gun on the woman, according to court papers. The taser shock caused a mortified Helm “to urinate a copious amount of urine onto herself and the floor of the facility,” the complaint says.
The girl “attempted to raise her head” to check on her mother and was tased in the sternum, the family claims in the suit. She was allegedly stunned a second time while being restrained by police and the Center Stage worker.
The incident caused the girl to suffer “a third grand-mal seizure and [she] was rendered unconscious,” the filing claims.
As the teen was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, her mother was carted to the county jail on charges of disorderly conduct, the suit claims. Helm’s charges were made “in an attempt by the [police] to cover up their unconstitutional actions,” the suit charges.
According to the suit, the girl was restrained and gagged in a common area of the hospital while the cops from the venue “made jokes about her, and to her” about Helm. The police also “threatened to have [her] committed to a mental facility.”
The girl was eventually discharged from the hospital and released to a stranger, the lawsuit claims. She has suffered from seizures ever since being struck by a drunk driver, her family claims in the court documents.
Rainbow City attorney Jim Turnbach would not discuss the facts of the case but said the municipality “will vigorously defend the suit.”
“I don’t make it a policy to try suits in the newspaper, as tempting as it might be,” he said in an e-mail to The Daily Beast. “The allegations are simply allegations and the facts in the case will dictate the outcome.”
He added that the federal case “will travel at a pretty good pace to its conclusion.”
On Tuesday, attorney for Gadsden City, Lee Roberts, said a preliminary inquiry into the incident showed none of the town's police officers were there that night.
Helm’s attorney, H. Gregory Harp of Birmingham, told The Daily Beast the suit “speaks for itself.”
“We believe that the allegations in the complaint bear out a lack of proper training for those police officers when it comes to the use of their taser weapons,” Harp said.
He stuck to the court document storyline when speaking to the Alabama Media Group.
“A Taser was used three times on a child’s chest, during a medical emergency, while she was pinned to the ground by officers,” Harp told the newspaper group. “Other officers present at the scene failed to intervene. Her mother was knocked to the ground, handcuffed, and then she herself Tased and arrested.”
Helm and her attorney also claim Center Stage is liable for failing to provide adequate crowd control at the Kevin Gates concert. The venue should have instituted more security measures given that the rapper’s shows are known to cause melees, the lawsuit says.
In October 2014, a gunman with an assault rifle at a Gates concert in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, prompted a “near riot,” the Argus Leader reported. Gates also reportedly fought two female fans during a Michigan stop earlier this year.
Correction: The incident with a gunman at a Gates concert in 2014 was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A previous version of this report incorrectly indicated it was in North Dakota.