A local activist filed a civil rights suit this month against the city of Wauwatosa and three Wauwatosa police officers.
Mariah Smith, known for her protests against police brutality with Milwaukee-area advocacy group the People's Revolution, said Wauwatosa Police Department officers — Capt. Luke Vetter, Lt. Jeffrey Farina and Officer Benjamin Ziegler — used excessive force on Sept. 5, 2020, leaving her with a concussion and multiple injuries, according to the lawsuit filed on Sept. 1 in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
The suit also said the three searched and detained her without cause, violating her Fourth Amendment rights.
The city of Wauwatosa is listed as a defendant in the suit because officers "were acting within the scope of their employment," the lawsuit said.
Officers can only use force when "no reasonably effective, safe, and feasible alternative appears to exist," according to the United States Department of Justice.
Smith's lawsuit said she had not committed a crime, and there was no reason to suspect that she was about to.
Wauwatosa police declined to comment due to "pending litigation," but confirmed they are aware of the lawsuit.
Smith is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney's fees. She is also seeking a jury trial.
Smith's attorney has not returned the Journal Sentinel's request for comment.
Smith was part of a car caravan in Wauwatosa that day, lawsuit says
On Sept. 5, 2020, at around 11:30 p.m., Smith was a passenger in a vehicle, which was one of many driving in a caravan on Highway 100 in Wauwatosa, the lawsuit said.
Car caravans were often a part of the 2020 protests. Sept. 5, 2020, marked the 100th day of marching since protests began in Milwaukee on May 29, four days after George Floyd, a Black man, died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest, the Journal Sentinel reported that year.
The vehicle driver noticed police officers had blocked Highway 100, the suit said, so she turned to go in another direction.
The vehicle was later stopped by WPD on North Mayfair Road.
When Smith exited the vehicle and ran southbound on North Mayfair Road, Vetter yelled at her to "get the f**k on the ground."
That's when the lawsuit describes her being attacked, searched and arrested by police.
The lawsuit said WPD officers violently grabbed her, slammed her head against a vehicle and her face against the ground.
Hours after she was released, she went to the Froedtert Hospital Emergency Department and Trauma Center at 4:24 a.m. on Sept. 6. She told doctors her head was "pounding," and she could barely walk.
She was then diagnosed with a concussion, along with other various injuries, which contributed to her ongoing headaches she suffered for days after, the suit said, causing her to seek medical attention again on Sept. 9, 2020.
A Menomonee Falls man sued the city and WPD after he was wrongly pulled from his car, detained by Tosa police, on Sept. 5, 2020
Menomonee Falls couple Alana Kubicki and Shayne Piering were wrongly detained after Wauwatosa police assumed they were part of a car caravan on Sept. 5, 2020, the Journal Sentinel reported.
The following year, Piering filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Wauwatosa, WPD Chief James MacGillis and the officers involved for use of excessive force, inadequate training and lack of oversight.
The lawsuit was dismissed because the city, chief and police department can't be held liable for the incident under state law, the court's opinion said.
On Sept. 5, Kubicki and Piering were on their way home at about 11 p.m., unaware of a car caravan protest making its way down North Mayfair Road.
As they drove down North Mayfair, someone ran toward their vehicle and began to knock on the windows, asking to be let in. Police arrested that person, then shattered the car's driver's side window to pull Piering from his seat.
Police had the couple lay on the ground, handcuffed, for over 15 minutes. The couple insisted they were just going home and had no idea who the person that asked to get inside their vehicle was.
Piering's lawsuit said he was injured in the incident, seeking medical treatment at Froedert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin for severe left knee pain, severe upper, mid and lower back pain and other injuries.
Wauwatosa Police Department's public information officer, Sgt. Abby Pavlik, said officers thought the couple was involved in the protest that night.
The couple was in the wrong place at the wrong time, Pavlik said, and WPD paid for the damages to their window.
Smith also part of WPD's 'target list' lawsuit
Mariah Smith was one of the nearly 200 people, including a Wisconsin Examiner journalist, local elected officials and an attorney, listed on WPD's self-described "target list."
The target list, along with a Dropbox link that included hours of protest footage and over 500 unredacted documents linked to the 2020 marches, was a part of a federal lawsuit that went to trial in May.
Plaintiffs said their rights under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act were violated by WPD's crime analyst Dominick Ratkowski and Lt. Joseph Roy.
To establish a DPPA violation, it must be proven that the defendants obtained, disclosed or used personal information from a motor vehicle record for a purpose that isn't permitted. The jury found that DPPA rights were not violated.
The lawsuit was part of a legal battle that ensued after Wauwatosa's frequent 2020 protests sparked by police killings, including former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah's fatal shooting of 17-year-old Alvin Cole.
THANK YOU: Subscribers' support makes this work possible. Help us share the knowledge by buying a gift subscription.
DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and more
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Local activist files lawsuit for injuries suffered from Tosa arrest