Lewis Williams — the father of Memory Burns, the woman who was tased — is accusing the City of Globe and the involved police officers of a variety of legal violations, including false imprisonment, trespassing, and violations of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, like excessive force. He's seeking a jury trial and damages.
The city of Globe and the police officers involved in the incident are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Paul Jepson, the Globe city manager, did not respond to Phoenix New Times' request for comment on the lawsuit. Globe Police Chief Dale Walters also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Here's what transpired, per the lawsuit: Just before midnight on September 25, 2020, Globe police officers Jeffrey Overton, Matthew Ortiz, and Natalia Lomahoema were dispatched to an apartment complex to respond to a call from a resident about "loud noises, banging sounds, and the possibility of a male and female arguing" in the unit below. When they arrived, they knocked on the front door of the unit and identified themselves as police officers but no one answered. Sergeant Overton told Officer Lomahoema to check to see if the backdoor of the unit was locked. The door was unlocked and the officers opened it.
As Officers Ortiz and Lomahoema stood near the open door, a uniformed Arizona Department of Safety trooper, who is identified in the complaint as "D. Deatherage," approached them and told them that Burns lived in the unit and that she is mentally ill and "frequently had arguments with herself in which she used a voice that sounded like a male voice."
The lawsuit also notes that Burns was "widely known" to the Globe Police Department as being mentally ill and had regular interactions with law enforcement.
Jesse Showalter, a trial attorney with the Phoenix law firm Robbins and Curtin that is representing Williams in the lawsuit, told Phoenix New Times that the trooper who informed the Globe police officers about Burns' mental health issues lived in the same apartment complex. Overton, however, was allegedly not part of this conversation.
"At that point, they should have known that they were not dealing with any kind of crime and they did not have a warrant to enter the residence," Showalter said.
The officers entered Burns' apartment regardless, their guns drawn. Officer Lomahoema allegedly yelled for "Memory," indicating that she understood who they were dealing with. The officers eventually found Burns, who was 35 years old at the time, in her bedroom. They pointed their guns at her and ordered her to come out with her hands on her head. Overton allegedly told Officer Ortiz to "drop her," which the lawsuit claims was an order to shoot Burns. Ortiz didn't fire.
Overton then yelled, "I will tase you." Burns responded, "Yeah, right," and Overton tased her. Burns fell while screaming, "You're killing me" and began asking for her dad. The officers then arrested Burns and Overton told her, "You're under arrest for obstructing."
The complaint states that there is "no crime of 'obstructing' under Arizona's criminal code" and that the officers "did not have probable cause to believe that Memory had committed any crime."
"For reasons that make no sense, Sergeant Overton tases her. She poses no threat to him or anybody else and it was clearly a use of unlawful force against a woman that the two officers standing next to Overton knew was mentally ill," Showalter said. "Not only was she not armed, there’s no report that there were any weapons in the home."
Burns' case attracted attention last March when her family first submitted a notice of claim — a procedural precursor to a lawsuit — with the City of Globe. In an interview with ABC15, Chief Walters defended the involved officers' actions as the result of bad information but admitted that they "missed the mark." A Globe Police Department internal investigation into the incident also found policy violations. However, Overton allegedly has a lengthy track record of misconduct, including sexually harassing a co-worker, botching DUI investigations, and refusing to respond to a call at a mental health facility, per ABC15.
The Globe Police Department has other issues aside from Sergeant Overton. In December 2019, Phoenix New Times reported on the numerous scandals that have plagued the department, such as the agency hiring officers who previously had their law enforcement certifications revoked and other officers being ousted for domestic violence and sexual harassment.
Read the full lawsuit filed by Williams below: