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Black woman sues Fayetteville police over alleged assault

Black woman sues Fayetteville police over alleged assault

A North Carolina woman has filed a federal lawsuit against Fayetteville police, alleging she was assaulted and unlawfully handcuffed in September.
Ja’Lana Dunlap, 22, and her legal team announced the lawsuit at a press conference Tuesday in front of Fayetteville federal courthouse.

“You have to demand respect, whether they wear a badge or whether they're just in regular clothes,” Dunlap said. “And if you're wearing that badge if you're wearing a uniform, then you're supposed to protect and serve, not harm innocent people.”

On Sept. 6, Dunlap, a property manager at the time, said she was taking photos of the site she oversees on behalf of the owner, who had recently gotten a citation from the city about people illegally dumping furniture and trash on the vacant lot.

After taking the photos and returning to her car, Dunlap said two Fayetteville police officers, who were searching for a suspected fugitive, approached her, asking why she was on the property. Dunlap said she provided her name and explained she was taking photos for her boss.

Dunlap said one officer then asked her to provide identification. She said she declined, knowing North Carolina is not a "Stop and Identify" state, meaning residents are not legally obligated to provide an ID if they have not committed or been suspected of committing a crime.

At one point, she said an officer reached into the vehicle and grabbed her left arm to pull her out of the vehicle, at which point Dunlap asked the officer to stop and began recording the interaction on her phone.

“You never know being an African American, whether your life can end then just by the hands of police when you haven't done anything wrong,” Dunlap said at the press conference.

After the officers pulled her out, Dunlap alleges they grabbed her phone to stop the recording and slammed her against the vehicle’s trunk, placing her in handcuffs.

Dunlap, who said in the press conference that she suffers from sickle cell anemia, said she began hyperventilating due to the stress and at one point vomited.

The officers eventually released Dunlap after she said they forcibly removed the fanny pack around her waist to check her ID and confirmed her identity.

Dunlap was never arrested or charged with any crime and later filed a formal complaint with the police department.

Her lawsuit alleges the officers violated her federal civil rights by falsely arresting her, using excessive force and infringing on her freedom of speech. The complaint also claims police violated North Carolina law by allegedly assaulting and falsely imprisoning her, intentionally inflicting emotional distress and trespassing, among other allegations.

The lawsuit also names Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins and the City of Fayetteville, accusing them of negligent hiring, training and supervision.

Fayetteville officials did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

The police department did not comment directly on the lawsuit, but Hawkins wrote in a previous statement to ABC News that an investigation is already underway and will be expedited by the Internal Affairs Unit.

Hawkins also explained officers approached Dunlap in a vacant lot 0.5 miles from where a potentially violent suspect ran away from police. Once police confirmed she was not the suspect, they let her go, she added.

Earlier this month, Dunlap's attorneys Harry Daniels and Carnell Johnson released video footage of the Sept. 6 incident that was taken on Dunlap's phone.

Hawkins previously said she had made a formal request for a judge to permit the release of police body camera footage from the incident. The police department is now awaiting a court order to release the footage, a Fayetteville police spokesperson told ABC News.

Dunlap's attorneys, who attended a court hearing on the request immediately preceding the press conference, said they “fully anticipate” the officers’ body camera footage will be released “soon.”

Daniels said he believes the body camera footage will be “very telling.”

“It is gonna show exactly what we already know,” Daniels said at the press conference. “It’s going to show abuse of power, police power, intimidation, use of force.”

“It's also going to show the state of Ms. Dunlap because the video that was cut off only had a first-person viewpoint,” he added. “That body camera is gonna show what they were looking at and what they saw what was happening to her."
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