“For nearly 3 years I’ve endured severe pain, been unable to work and facing potential homelessness on a monthly basis. I continue to wait for the city of Louisville to pay for damages in which they have acknowledged responsibility.
My encounter with the Louisville Metro Police Department revealed several problems for citizens if they are physically harmed or left permanently injured by police personnel. Despite whether you are innocent of any charges or wrong doing, you will be left responsible for the cost of any and all medical bills resulting from your encounter with police until they feel like paying.
My name is Antwynette Houston and 31 months ago at 38 years of age, my life and quality of life were forever changed due to excessive force used against me by a Louisville Metro Police Department Officer. Prior to my incident, I never believed the police just harassed people for no reason. At various times during my life, I heard people proclaim that the police harassed them, had bothered them, or had done this or that to them. However, I was always one to dismiss those claims. I would always think that those people had done something or they had a shady past, so I just never took those claims seriously until it unfortunately happened to me. I’ve never been in trouble with the law, so I have always respected police officers and their work. Prior to my incident, officers had always been nice to me during traffic stops, for example, so I never had a reason to think police officers were bad or they were out to cause me harm.
The incident happened on August 3, 2013, at 2:40 am at Thornton’s gas station in Louisville, Kentucky where I live. I had been in Indianapolis, Indiana all day in support of a friend whose father died, and after the funeral I drove home to Louisville after spending time with my friend and her family. I stopped at Thornton’s to get a donut because I had been traveling, and I was hungry. Because it was so early in the morning, there were no cars in Thornton’s parking spaces when I arrived, so I parked my car almost diagonally across two spaces near the store’s entrance. Because I had my 9 year old son asleep in the backseat of my car, I intended to just pop into the store quickly and go home after purchasing donut.
As I was walking into the store, I was stopped by a man in a car asking me why I parked the way I did. I responded and told him I was just running inside to get a donut, and I was coming right out. He told me I needed to move my car. Everyone who knows me knows I can have a sarcastic sense of humor, so I laughed and asked “why, is there going to be a mad rush of cars or something?” The man didn’t think it was funny and responded “I’ll just give you a ticket then.” The man, unbeknownst to me at that time, was an Officer of the Louisville Metro Police Department, Officer Scott Sturgeon.
The Officer wasn’t driving a police car; he arrived in what appeared to be his privately owned vehicle. The Officer also didn’t identify himself. I just assumed he was truly law enforcement, so I proceeded to move my car as he requested. As I attempted to pull straight into a single parking space, The Officer walked into the space, so I steered my car slightly to the right to avoid him, which caused me to park a little closer to the line than I would have had he not been standing in the space. I exited my car and proceeded to walk into the store.
Once he exited his vehicle, I could see he was wearing a polo shirt with an embroidered badge and shorts. At this point I’m feeling a little intimidated because of how he just stood in the space as I was attempting to park with his hands on his hips, but I was also thinking it was over, and he would go on his way and I’d go on mine. As I approached the door of the store again, the Officer stopped me. He told me to give him my license because I was drunk. Again, I laughed and said, “I’m not drunk, I don’t drink. I’ll give you a breathalyzer, but I don’t drink, and my son is in the backseat.” He insisted that I was drunk, and ushered me to the back of my car to see how I parked. My rear passenger side tire was a little over the line and into the next parking space, which was a handicap space. I laughed, thinking it was a light moment, and asked Officer Sturgeon if he was kidding, at which point he swelled up on me and said, “Does it look like I’m fucking joking?”
At this point I became confused at the situation because he was cursing at me and his face was extremely red. He was sweating profusely and seemed very angry. I told him that he didn’t appear to be joking, but he knew why I parked the way I did, which was because he was standing in the space as I was attempting to park into and had I gotten to close to him, he would have probably accused me of trying to hit him.
The Officer continued to insist that I was drunk and again asked me for my license. I then asked him why he was harassing me and told him I had done nothing wrong. At this moment, I started to feel that something just wasn’t right, so I stated again that I was not drunk and that I was scared. The Officer looked at me with hatred, he kept glancing down at my breast, his body language made me feel that he was getting ready to take me, not arrest me. Plus, we both knew I had done nothing wrong and I had already followed his orders. Attempting to defuse the situation, I offered two more times for him to give me a breathalyzer, but he refused.
Realizing the situation had turned bad, I stated that I needed the police, at which point He stated “I am the fucking police!” I stated, “I need a different police because something is wrong.” I feel it’s important to remind everyone that prior to this point, the Officer still had not identified himself as an officer, but I was working under the assumption that he was police. So, I asked him for his name and to see his badge, but he refused. I asked him to call the police, but he refused. At this time I reiterated that I was scared, so I was returning to my car to phone the police. I tried to reassure him that I was not going anywhere; I was not leaving the scene. I got in my car, locked the doors, and called the police on my cell phone.
The Officer followed me to my car. He stood outside my car (hands on his hips as if to demonstrate a position of authority or control) demanding that I give him my license or go to jail. I explained that I had dialed 911 and was on line with the police, but he kept demanding that I give him my license. The third time he asked for my license, I let my window down a little just in case he didn’t hear that I was on the line with the police. At this point, He reached inside my car window and opened my door from the inside and then proceeded to snatch me out of my car, at which point my son was awakened and started screaming.
“I am the fucking police!”
The Officer lifted me from a sitting to standing position by my arm. I was terrified, screaming and crying. I told him immediately that I had surgery on my shoulder a year ago and he couldn’t do my arm that way. At that moment, he pushed me against my car and deliberately yanked my arm to the other side of my body, which is when I felt something pop in my shoulder. He handcuffed me and started pulling me towards his privately owned vehicle. I began screaming for help and begging him to let me go. He then started trying to force me into the front passenger seat of his car, which I thought was weird if he was in fact police. That scared me even more. I wondered to myself that if he was the police, and I didn’t have a reason to fear him, why couldn’t he just calm down and wait for the police to arrive?
The Officer was so enraged that he didn’t even realize that I still had my cell phone in my hand when he handcuffed me and that I was still on the line with 911. During this time he was stating things like “your son is going to the home of the innocence and you’re going to jail.” The Officer did not get on his radio until he heard sirens coming, at which point his entire demeanor changed and he called for police backup. Between my call to 911 and his call for backup, 12 officers arrived.
After the officers talked to him and me, a sergeant came to me and apologized for the incident, and he let me go. However, I was not let go before being chastised by Sturgeon as to why I didn’t provide my license as requested. As I stated to the officer, I had always seen on the news that if ever in a situation in which a person feels threatened or unsafe after asking to see an officer’s credentials, that person has every right to call 911 for backup. I was then told that, I had no rights, the Officer continued to humiliate me by making me repeat that driving was a “privilege,” whenever he asked “driving is a what?”
I immediately went to the hospital emergency room upon being let go by the sergeant. The hospital treated me for bruising and a large cyst on my wrist from the handcuffs, gave me pain medications, took pictures of my injuries, and released me later that day. In all, my injuries consisted of a large cyst on my wrist; a broken clavicle; an AC separation; a torn rotor cuff; a traumatic tear under my arm (both in front and behind my shoulder); tearing to the latissimus dorsi, teres major, and teres minor; and nerve damage near my spine, in my arm, and in the brachial plexus.
Aftermath of the Assault
Three days after the incident, I filed a complaint with the Professional Standards Unit at the Louisville Metro Police Department. They told me that they would do an investigation, and I just waited patiently for a response. During the wait, I hired an attorney, and we tried to take out a warrant out for the Officer’s arrest. We were not allowed to take out a warrant; we were told to follow procedure and wait for the Professional Standards Unit to complete their investigation.
In the meantime, I found out that I needed surgery. I had my first surgery on October 7, 2013. As a result of the injuries I’ve suffered mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. Because of the way I was physically handled, I’ve had two surgeries already, and I’m in need of a third. One of the most profound injuries of several I suffered was the tearing of my latissimus dorsi and teres major/minor muscles. Basically, I require reconstructive surgery to my back and shoulder muscles and decompression of nerves in my neck in order to just return to some semblance of normalcy as related to my life prior to the incident.
The injuries I suffered cause me chronic pain and emotional, mental, and physical anguish on a daily basis. I have not been able to work in over 31 months, which has placed a huge financial burden on me and my family; I had to borrow about $50,000 for the second surgery I had, and now I’ve had to stoop to new lows by resorting to the Internet and social media seeking a benefactor for my third surgery. I am not responsible for these injuries, they are.
Once I started applying pressure on the Louisville Metro Police Department to answer my complaint (because I’d waited so long for an answer and just had surgery), I was informed that LMPD chief Steve Conrad concluded that the Officer’s conduct was “lawful and proper.” In other words, I brought the excessive use of force incident upon myself. Even though, I was apologized to and released by the responding Sergeant who arrived on the scene, and the false charges placed on me by Sturgeon, were dropped in court!
I found out around August 2014, a whole year later, that I needed another surgery and that my injuries were more severe than originally thought. I asked the Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine to intervene and press charges against the officer, he refused. I’ve since filed a lawsuit against the city and Officer Scott Sturgeon.
Well now I’m upset! I’m broken physically, emotionally, and mentally; and quite frankly, I feel compelled to take action myself and try to use public support to persuade the City of Louisville (or Mayor of Louisville) to do the right thing by making me whole again and charging now retired officer Scott sturgeon with felony assault. I’m asking each and every citizen of the City of Louisville & across the country to stand with me, and tell the City of Louisville, Kentucky; Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky; and the Louisville Metro Police Department to acknowledge the Officer’s excessive use of force against me over a parking violation & charge him, to acknowledge the injuries caused to me by the officer, to publicly apologize to me, and most importantly, pay all of my medical expenses (past, present, and future) that are directly related to the officer’s excessive use of force against me.
Until the City of Louisville corrects this misdeed, I’m also asking each of you to join me in boycott of the 2016 Kentucky Derby horse races being held at Churchill Downs and also all festivities surrounding the Kentucky Derby itself. I ask you to stand united with me, and please sign this petition to help right the injustice heaped on me. I sincerely thank you for any support you are willing to give me.”