A Black mother who was punched by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy while holding her infant last year has filed a federal lawsuit against the county and the deputies involved in the violent confrontation.
In a newly filed federal civil rights lawsuit, Yeayo Russell claims that the deputies involved in the July 13, 2022 incident used excessive force in her wrongful arrest, CBS News reports.
“The county has had a practice and a custom of using excessive force against Antelope Valley residents,” attorney Jamon Hicks said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. He added that Russell spent several days in jail away from her child, who was just a few weeks old at the time.
“She had no idea where her child was,” he said. “Hours and hours, she had no idea if her child was okay.”
Deputies in Palmdale pulled over the vehicle Russell was in for not having its headlights turned on. When they pulled over the driver, the deputies said they noticed the smell of alcohol coming from inside and saw four women, three of whom were holding babies in their arms instead of using car seats.
The deputies reportedly arrested the man driving the vehicle on suspicion of felony child endangerment, driving under the influence, and driving with a suspended license.
The women were arrested for suspicion of child endangerment, but deputies used force with two of them while attempting to make the arrests.
Recently released body cam footage shows Russell yelling and refusing to let go of her infant child. A male deputy is shown punching Russell twice in the face while attempting to detain her.
Russell screams in anguish, “You punched me, bro!” “You’re wrong!” she exclaims repeatedly. The footage shows her being handcuffed.
According to authorities, Russell was still holding the baby at the time of the incident. According to CBS News, the deputy involved in the incident has since been relieved of his duty.
Earlier this month, Sheriff Robert Luna called the incident “unacceptable.”
Hicks said that using force on his client could have been avoided altogether. “Once the children were out of the car, there was a family on the way to pick up the child, so the Sheriff’s Department could have just easily allowed the child to go with Yeayo’s family, and this would have alleviated the need for force and arrest,” Hicks said.