A 37-year-old woman is suing Phoenix police for $12.5 million after officers sexually assaulted her last year during a body cavity search on December 26, 2018.
In addition to the alleged cavity search, Erica Reynolds claims Phoenix police officers coerced a confession out of her to prevent her from speaking publicly about the incident.
Reynolds also endured a rectal cavity search that caused bleeding.
Police admit to the cavity search, but say it was their right.
“As the officer inserted multiple unlubricated fingers into Erica’s anus, probing her rectum, the tears flowed,” her lawsuit describes.
“And as the officers aggressively poked and prodded a hemorrhoid, Erica yelped in pain.”
Her daughter eventually had to take her to the hospital, according to AZCentral.
“After the body cavity search revealed nothing, Erica was released to her daughter. In physical pain, bleeding rectally, and traumatized, she eventually asked her daughter to take her to the hospital,” the lawsuit says.
Phoenix police admit they gave Reynolds a double body cavity search.
But they claim it was their right to search inside of her body after smelling marijuana.
“Having reason to believe Ms. Reynolds possessed illegal drug evidence on her person, officers requested a female police officer to perform a thorough search of Ms. Reynolds,” Phoenix police spokeswoman Mercedes Fortune said.
However, the search conducted on Reynolds was a violation of the department’s written policy, which says:
“Black bodies are not crime scenes,” Parris Wallace of civil rights group Poder in Action said during a press conference.
“Our bodies are not to be treated this way without consent. Erica begged that the officer stop.”
When she arrived at the Maricopa Medical Center, she told staff members she was sexually assaulted.
“I think I was raped by police officers. They did a body cavity search and now I have bleeding.”
During her hospital visit, medical staff wrote that Reynolds had been sexually assaulted and had rectal bleeding.
However, Phoenix police told medical staff they would not be investigating Reynolds’ allegations, her lawsuit says.
The incident occurred after she met with an alleged drug dealer police were surveilling named Charles Riggins.
Officers searched her car after claiming to smell marijuana.
They patted Reynolds down, but found no drugs.
They brought out a drug sniffing dog, but still did not find drugs.
“At this point, with Erica demonstrably not in possession of anything illegal, the Phoenix PD officers made a choice,” her lawsuit states.
“They did not end the search. They did not secure a search warrant. They did not release Erica.”
Reynolds and her supporters are urging the Phoenix Police Department to develop new policies for body cavity searches, as well as form a civilian review board with subpoena power.
Reynold’s notice of claim comes just a week after Phoenix police officers were under the national news spotlight for their brutal treatment of a family held at gunpoint over a stolen dollar store Barbie doll.
This isn’t the first time Reynolds has gone public about being sexually assaulted by Phoenix police.
On January 11, Reynolds posted a video to Facebook, which can be seen above, describing to city council what police did to her the month before.