Elaine Anderson dropped her son off at about 8:30 p.m. at a party at the Collegiate Village Inn on W. Tennessee Street. She instructed Darius Campbell, 16, to go to Cici’s Pizza with friends afterward and call when he was finished.
Anderson received a call that night. But not from Campbell. At about 9:30 that evening, March 24, Anderson said she got a call from one of her son’s friends telling her to hurry. Her son was in the back of a police car, bleeding and bruised.
“When I asked the arresting officer what happened, he was just a butt hole,” said Anderson, a second-grade teacher. “Kids were everywhere, the parking lot was full, but only my son was arrested. So out of 200 people, you get one person?”
According to an incident report from the arresting officer, Steven Harriett of the Tallahassee Police Department, the hotel’s managers asked officers to break up the party and clear the parking lot. Many of the youngsters at the party then migrated to the Publix shopping center on Ocala Road. Harriett estimated there to be 200 people “congregating” in the shopping center. He said he then made contact with Publix management, who requested he get everyone in the parking lot to leave.
“After clearing the majority of the shopping center without any incident, I noticed a group of approximately 20 people still congregating in front of Publix on the sidewalk,” Harriett wrote in the incident report. “I had already told the same group to leave the property. As I drove by, I pulled up to next to the group and again told them to leave the property.”
What happened next is the reason Harriett and three other officers restrained and arrested Campbell.
“I then heard and observed Darius D. Campbell yell at me, “F*** YOU CRACKER!” Harriett said he got out of his car and told Campbell to come here so the officer could arrest him for trespass after a warning and disorderly conduct. He alleged Campbell turned and ran the other way.
Anderson said her son denied making the statement and other teenagers agreed. But she was hesitant to side with her son on that point because she was not there.
“I can’t vouch for that one, you know kids don’t tell you everything,” Anderson said. “But even if he did, it’s freedom of speech.”
She said if there were 19 other teenagers who refused to leave, they should have all been arrested.
“They’re doing the same thing he did, so the only reason you arrested him is because he opened his mouth,” she said.Officer Richard Fairbanks of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Capitol Police was working an off-duty detail at Publix that night. Fairbanks wrote in his offense reporting form that Harriett told him to stop Campbell.
“I grabbed the youth and pinned him against a wall and restrained his left hand with an arm bar. Several officers came to assist me,” Fairbanks said.
“Why do you need four or five officers to restrain a 16-year-old that don’t weigh no more than about 150 pounds?” Anderson asked.
Harriett said he tried repeatedly to put Campbell’s right arm behind his back, but Campbell kept pulling away. Harriett sprayed Campbell in the face with pepper spray, then officer Muse and Fairbanks helped Harriett arrest Campbell. Campbell was so hostile in the rear of the police car, Harriett said, that the officer restrained the teen’s legs using a hobble to stop him from kicking. Harriett said after Campbell was in the car, he noticed the teen’s mouth was bleeding.
This is not the story Anderson said police told her. The arrest records report the time of the incident at 10:45 p.m., but Anderson said when she arrived shortly after 10 p.m., her son was already in the police car, and officers would not let her see him.
She said at first Harriett told her Campbell ran into the wall. Onlookers in the parking lot told her the officer slammed him into the wall twice. She said her son’s injuries include lines under his chin that look like officers scraped Campbell’s face along the wall. Campbell also had an abrasion on his right ankle and a golf ball-sized abrasion on his left shoulder.
June Monroe, Campbell’s counselor, was able to visit Campbell at the Leon County Regional Juvenile Detention Center, where he is being held. Monroe took pictures of his injuries using her cell phone’s camera.
Anderson also said Harriett admitted to her that perhaps Campbell would not place his arm behind his back because he may have been trying to touch his mouth, which was bleeding.
Campbell has hairline fractures on three of his front teeth.
“His mouth was smashed,” Anderson explained. “There’s $3,000- $5,000 of dental work needed to be done. His front teeth are pushed back.”
Documents from Tallahassee Memorial Hospital show Campbell is on two medications, one a painkiller and the other an antibiotic to prevent infection.
The home care instructions say Campbell is on a soft food diet and cannot eat foods that are very hot or cold.
Anderson contacted Parks & Crump, LLC. to try to sue TPD. She said the lawyers told her she would have to wait until the criminal charges are resolved before filing a suit, but they agreed excessive force was used. Anderson also asked Campbell’s public defender to file complaints against the officers.
“Each agency has its own definition for what is considered excessive force,” said attorney Judy Hall. “You can call and request a copy of the rules. It should be public record.” Hall was Campbell’s lawyer, but she removed herself from the case because of a conflict of interest.
Hall said she did not file complaints because she did not conduct any interviews and has not spoken with Campbell’s new lawyer. But she obtained a subpoena to get Publix to release the surveillance video from March 24.
“We’re waiting to get the videotape, and hopefully that will tell us something,” Hall said.
But Anderson has drawn some conclusions of her own. She feels police are profiling young men and women as gang members with no solid basis.
Anderson wondered how her son was singled out of such a large group of students, many wearing solid black and white T-shirts.
“Things that used to be normal are now considered a big deal. If the shirts are contributing to crime, why don’t they make the stores stop selling them?” she asked.