Newly released surveillance footage shows the brutal assault of a 16-year-old girl in a New Orleans juvenile detention center as she was being processed on September 23 last year.
The video clearly shows the officer using a pair of shackles he was holding as a weapon to strike the young girl.
Officer Terrance Saulny was terminated from the force following the incident, because he “lied about using profanity during the encounter, violating department rules regarding truthfulness and the use of unauthorized force,” according to a statement from Superintendent Michael Harrison.
In the video, which was obtained by The New Orleans Advocate, Saulny, who reportedly weighs 230 pounds, rammed the girl into the side of the cell, placed his forearm in her neck and began assaulting her with the four point restraints in hand, striking her at least twice.
The officer claims the teen was mouthing off and “passively resisting” being shackled.
The bipolar teen had been arrested for purse snatching and resisting an officer, and had allegedly been vocally protesting her arrest all the way to the detention center in Gentilly.
Once she was placed inside the holding cell, officers claim she began crying uncontrollably and kicking the door. Officers later claimed they were concerned that she would kick it open.
“I wasn’t even under the impression that it was a female, the way that she was acting and her appearance,” Officer Kira Godchaux had reported. “I thought it was a little boy in there.”
The police report stated that the girl sustained only “minor injuries,” including cuts on her lip and her chest, but a lawyer representing the girl asserts that she has had to have surgery following the incident.
“He went to hitting me where his handcuffs is in my chest,” the girl told PIB investigators. “I was crying because he had slammed me on the ground and he had hit me on my lip and my face and stuff on the bench.”
“It should be noted because the shackles are connected by a long chain and Detective Saulny did not take precautions to drop the shackles or maintain control of them, (the girl) may have been struck twice from the second shackle hurling its way across her body,” Sergeant Hudson Cutno, Saulny’s supervisor wrote. “The incident happened so quickly that without the proper video equipment to slow the footage, it is unknown if the second shackle actually physically made contact.”
Despite the officer being fired for his use of excessive force, no charges were filed against him.
The investigative file shows an FBI agent from the Civil Rights Division participated in the probe, but suggests that the U.S. Department of Justice also decided not to pursue criminal charges, The Advocate reports.
“She’s in the detention center, so of course she may have done something to be in there. But that doesn’t give you the right to bang her up the way (Saulny) did,” Michael Hall, a New Orleans attorney representing the girl and her mother told the Advocate. “He was fighting like she was a man.”
The video was released by Simone Levine, the city’s deputy independent police monitor, who said she did so as part of her office’s commitment to transparency within the New Orleans Police Department. Levine is also going to recommend all officers assigned to the juvenile facility to wear body cameras, but how effective will that be if none of the investigative agencies pursue criminal charges against officers who violate the law?