Black Filmmaker Reported Burglary, Got Tased: Lawsuit

Damien Smith alleges false arrest, violation of civil rights in lawsuit against LAPD
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2023 4:20 PM CDT
Black Filmmaker Says He Was Tased After Reporting Burglary
In this May 7, 2008 file photo, a police issued taser is in Victoria, British Columbia.   (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Actor-director Damien Smith was making a documentary about police brutality when he says he unwittingly became a victim. Smith says he returned to his Hollywood apartment in October 2021 to find a man walking out of his bedroom carrying his grandfather's watch and other belongings. As the man charged, Smith says he cut him with a knife, then subdued him on the floor. He then called the Los Angeles Police Department. But when officers arrived, they used a taser on Smith and put him in handcuffs, according to a lawsuit filed last month, per the Los Angeles Times. Smith says he was standing over the man with the knife in his hand when officers ordered him to drop the weapon. He says he complied while stating that he was the resident. A neighbor who heard the commotion says she told police the same thing.

"Then I hear a pop, and I start crying profusely thinking they killed Damien," the woman tells the Times. In the suit, Smith says he fell to the floor, but was tased twice more, while the burglar was allowed to jump up and run into his bedroom. Smith says he was then handcuffed and put into a police car. "I'm like, 'I'm the one who called you.' They're like, 'Shut up,'" Smith says. He says he was interrogated for 15 minutes before officers conceded he lived at the home, but "no one apologized." Police, who ended up arresting the burglar, only began investigating the incident after Smith sued on June 15, per the Times. The defendants have declined to release body camera footage but claim the use of force was "necessary for self-defense," per the Washington Post.

Smith, who is Black, believes he was racially profiled. The suit notes officers often "over-react to Black people, whom they wrongly assume to be criminals," per the Sacramento Bee. In this case, Smith "was standing inside of his home, unarmed, and was not posing a threat" when he was tased, according to the suit. Smith—who's appeared in films including Emancipation as well as TV's Snowfall and The Purge—notes he was making a documentary about police brutality when he placed his 911 call, never expecting to become an alleged victim himself. "It's like they stripped me of all humanity," he tells the Post. "I'm traumatized" and "in such fear of calling the police," he adds, per the Times. He's seeking unspecified damages for false arrest, assault, violation of civil rights, and other claims. (More Los Angeles Police Department stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.