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Melbourne police open internal probe into tasing and arrest of 22-year-old Black woman

Arrest sparks protest

A small group of Brevard Peace Keepers were joined by Sharaina Simmons' sister, Shantisha Greene, Tuesday on Apollo Boulevard.
A small group of Brevard Peace Keepers were joined by Sharaina Simmons' sister, Shantisha Greene, Tuesday on Apollo Boulevard. (Malcolm Denemark, Florida Today)

MELBOURNE, Fla. – The Melbourne Police Department has opened an internal probe into last week's arrest of a 22-year-old Black woman who was pulled from her car and Tased two times after police said she "violently resisted" their orders following an alleged stop sign violation.

The treatment and arrest of Sharaina Simmons sparked a small protest outside the police department Tuesday night after videos and photos of apparent bruises on Simmons began circulating on social media, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

The post, made by Simmons’ elder sister Shantisha Greene, 32, has been shared hundreds of times. 

All of this for running a stop sign really😡😡😡 Melbounre Polices department and Palm Bay Really😡😡😡 We need a lawyer ASAP...

Posted by Shan Greene on Friday, July 17, 2020

Additional videos, captured by Simmons' neighbor as well as a voicemail recording left on Simmons' mother's phone as Simmons tried to call her mother when she was pulled out of her vehicle in the early hours of Friday, were also shared with FLORIDA TODAY and raise questions about the official narrative from the Melbourne Police arrest report.

“We are in receipt of the videos regarding the arrest last Friday. The incident is being assigned as an Internal Affairs investigation,” Chief of Police David Gillespie said in a statement provided by a spokesman on Tuesday evening. “During that time there will be a thorough review of the facts and circumstances surrounding this stop and arrest.”

According to the Melbourne Police arrest report, the incident began when Simmons’ white Chevrolet failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign about one block from her homein the areaof WH Jackson Streetnear Brothers Avenue. 

According to the arrest report, Simmons slowly backed into her residence on S Grant Street. The arresting officer approached her vehicle but said in the report Simmons refused to roll down her window so he banged on it. He wrote that she replied with an expletive and then partly lowered the window. 

The police report said Simmons refused to provide her license and proof of registration and rolled her window back up. 

“After approximately 30 more seconds of banging on the window and commanding Simmons to roll the window down, she again rolled the window half-way. I then reached inside the vehicle and attempted to open the door from the inside, because Simmons had locked the driver door,” the arresting officer wrote. 

The officer said that a struggle ensued as Simmons "shoved" his hands away, held onto the center console and lodged her foot on the brake pedal.

“After a 45 second struggle,” the report said, a second officer used her Taser as a drive stun (directly applying the device to Simmons as opposed to firing the probes), and the first officer “was finally able to escort Simmons to the ground.”

The officer said Simmons continued to struggle "for approximately 30 seconds" before she was handcuffed.

She was then escorted to the patrol vehicle, but Simmons "violently pushed back" striking the other officer and "managed to get one hand out of the handcuffs."

The officer then fully deployed her TASER, firing the probes, according to the report, and Simmons was again handcuffed and placed in the patrol car. 

Simmons was charged with resisting arrest with violence, battery of a law enforcement officer and issued a ticket for the stop sign violation. She was booked into the Brevard County Jail where she posted bond of $20,000 and was released to her family on Friday night. 

Simmons’ family insists that’s not how it proceeded, and the videos, although very hard to make out, seem to suggest the use of force escalated more quicklyAnd throughout the incident, Simmons can be heard, while on the ground with the officer kneeling on her back, asking them to “get my mom” and “go get her please.”

"It's missing so many steps," said Greene, Simmons' sister. "They didn't even read her her Miranda rights."

Greene said the incident has caused significant anguish to the family who is seeking a lawyer for Simmons. “She can’t do anything with those felony charges,” Greene said of her sister who she said had just enrolled in college to advance her career as a healthcare worker. 

Simmons, speaking to FLORIDA TODAY, said that well before the officer's light went on for the alleged stop sign violation, she had noticed the patrol car had been following her from when she turned left onto WH Jackson Street from US-1. 

"I was driving and then I hit the stop sign, and then I made a right to go to my house on (S) Grant street, I proceeded to back up into my yard, and I looked to my left in my window, and the officer was banging on the window," she said. 

Simmons said the officer asked what she was doing and she replied that she was backing into her driveway. "I live here," she said. 

Simmons said that she had rolled down the window and the officer asked her for her ID and she rolled the window back up as she went to look for it, but she was slow to find it.

“I could see he was getting frustrated,” she said, and then the officer was “banging on my door saying if you don’t roll down this window I will bust your glass.”

"I was scared, I saw he was getting angry," she continued. "I rolled it down a bit so we could speak to each other, I cracked it 2-3 inches so he told me to roll down the window more, and that was still angering him."

“Why are you pulling me over, you still haven’t told me why,” she recalled saying. At this point she said the officer informed her of the stop sign and she said she asked if she was getting a ticket. 

“Next thing I know he’s telling me to get out of the car, I haven’t even gotten my license yet,” she said.

“I’m getting scared,” she said, adding that she was trying to call her mother at this point “I’m sitting there in disbelief.”

She said she was then Tased two times while the male officer had her pinned and when she was already cuffed. In one video clip, the female officer can be heard saying "do not move or I will tase you again," seconds after Simmons has been brought to the ground.

In a separate video clip, the popping sound of the Taser's probe deployment and the clicking sound of the conducted electrical weapon discharging its load can be heard along with Simmons shrieking. The person recording the video can be heard saying that at least eight police cars arrive on the scene, and a police canine is also visible in one clip.

In subsequent clips, a woman whom Simmons identified as her mother can be heard asking an officer “why is my daughter on the ground?”

"Because she was fighting with police," an officer replied. To which Simmons says "Ma, he unlocked my door, I didn't let him unlock my door, I swear to God."

Melbourne Police said dashcam footage can’t be released while the investigation is still active. In response to requests for other documents such as use of force reports and the electronic logs for the Taser, MPD said they would be provided when available.