Lawsuit: Inmate claims excessive force used in arrest caught on camera

A man at the center of a social media video that went viral in Wilmington in November has filed...
A man at the center of a social media video that went viral in Wilmington in November has filed a lawsuit against eight law enforcement members who were attempting to take him into custody. (Source: WECT)
Updated: Jan. 24, 2019 at 3:36 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A man at the center of a social media video that went viral in Wilmington in November has filed a lawsuit against eight law enforcement members who were attempting to take him into custody.

In the video, a deputy with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office can be seen punching Hiram Farmer, 35, while officers were trying to restrain him during an incident on Greenfield Street on Nov. 13, 2018.

“I came home from the store and I saw two officers walking towards me with my mom,” Farmer said during an interview at the New Hanover County Jail on Thursday. “They said ‘Farmer, we need to talk to you real quick. We got commitment papers and we need you to sign them and take you down to the hospital.’”

Farmer’s mother had taken involuntary commitment papers out on her son, who has a history of being aggressive, according to police. The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said Farmer has been arrested 40 times in the last 18 years.

Police stated they tried to take Farmer to the hospital, but he started to run. Farmer disagrees.

“I didn’t try to run," Farmer said. "They grabbed my arm, twisted it, twisted my hand up, and I started screaming because my arm was already messed up from a car accident.”

Farmer said officers then deployed a taser on him, and that he froze and fell to the ground.

“The next thing you know, it was two officers on top of me, then another two, then four, then all of them were jumping on top of me,” Farmer said.

A deputy from the sheriff’s office was caught on camera punching Farmer while other officers were trying to restrain him. Video of the encounter was posted to social media and sparked a furor over the apparent use of excessive force.

When questioned in November about the incident, Lt. Jerry Brewer, a spokesperson for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, said the deputy’s use of excessive force was warranted as the video showed Farmer trying to bite they deputy. Brewer said the deputy who was bitten had to seek medical attention

Farmer disagrees and said he believes excessive force was not warranted, which is why he filed a federal lawsuit on Jan. 22.

Farmer told WECT he felt the “rookie officers” were trying to be funny and trying to hurt him when they knew he was already hurt. Farmer said he didn’t think it was necessary to have that many officers respond to the incident.

“After the incident, they threw me in the car," Farmer said. "Next thing you know, I was passed out because of all the pain. I still can’t straighten my hand out all the way.”

In the lawsuit, Farmer claims he was “beaten and punched and stomped on and was defenseless having only one arm." He goes on to state, "how much resistance can I put up against trained officers after also being tasered?”

Farmer is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.

After the Nov. 13 incident, Farmer was involuntarily committed. He was released on Dec. 1, and charged with two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer and two counts of resisting/delay/obstructing a public officer. He is in jail under a $30,000 bond.

Linda Thompson, a spokesperson for the Wilmington Police Department, said body camera video of the incident was reviewed by the professional standards unit at the agency. Thompson confirmed on Thursday there was no internal investigation of the WPD officers involved.

Brewer said there was no disciplinary action taken against the deputies.

Copyright 2019 WECT. All rights reserved.