Couple files claim against Phenix City police over May 18 arrests *Warning: Graphic image

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comMay 29, 2014 

First her daughter-in-law whacked her son in the mouth with a broom handle, then a Phenix City police officer shattered her eye socket by punching her in the face before police charged her with assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

That's Elizabeth Coty-Green's synopsis of what happened at her Willow Trace Drive home on May 18, and it's why she'll have surgery today on her eye to repair the damage she said was caused by Officer Mark Cameron punching her with his fist while she was down on the floor.

Coty-Green's daughter-in-law, Shameka Shifflett, also was arrested, charged with felony assault for hitting her husband, Demetrius Shifflett, in the face with a broom handle and in the back of the head with a glass vase earlier that day.

Now the incident appears headed not only to the criminal courts but to a civil lawsuit against the city, for which Coty-Green's attorney already has served notice on the city council.

How a straightforward domestic dispute ballooned into a controversy now subjecting police to as much scrutiny as their suspects is a tangled tale that began that Sunday morning while Coty-Green and her husband, Spivey Green, were out of town.

Coty-Green, 53, and her 55-year-old husband had gone to Atlanta that weekend for an Amateur Athletic Union track meet, during which Green coached the Tri-City Striders. The husband and wife were on their way back when a relative called and said they'd better call home because her son and daughter-in-law were fighting.

According to her son's account, he came in from Walmart carrying their baby and some bags, and as soon as he put the baby down, his wife smacked him with the broom handle, Coty-Green said. He reported this to police, who in a warrant for his wife later wrote: "Mr. Shifflett received a cut to the back of his head, a busted lip along with one or more of his teeth being knocked out."

Coty-Green said her son and his wife had been living with her and her husband for about three weeks. The daughter-in-law left that day when her son called police, she said, and officers could not immediately locate her.

Later, Shameka Shifflett called Coty-Green to say she needed to pick up her belongings from the Willow Trace home. Unaware police were looking for her daughter-in-law, Coty-Green advised her to wait until she and her husband got home.

They got home around 9:20 p.m., she said. Though she called her daughter-in-law while traveling through Columbus to say they'd be home soon, Shameka Shifflett did not arrive with Officer Cameron to collect her belongings until 10 or 10:15 that night, Coty-Green said.

She said Shameka Shifflett got one bag and went outside while the officer waited, then she came back for more. Demetrius Shifflett wasn't there at the time, having gone to a pharmacy to get medication for his injuries, she said.

Because her son had told her his wife had some of his belongings, Coty-Green suggested the daughter-in-law return when Demetrius Shifflett was there, so they could make sure they each got their possessions back.

"I said, 'Shameka, Dimitrius said you have his stuff, his Social Security card, his birth certificate, military stuff and ATM card. … So you should come back when he's here so he can get his stuff from you and you can get your stuff from him.'"

Then came the confrontation.

"The officer said, 'No, she's going to get her stuff tonight,'" Coty-Green recalled. "And I said, 'I don't have to let either one of you in my house.'"

When she tried to close the door, Cameron blocked it with his foot, she said: "He said, 'She's going to get her stuff tonight or I'm going to arrest you.' So I said, 'Arrest me then.'"

Her husband came from upstairs to try to defuse the tension, speaking to the officer outside. Coty-Green locked the door behind them and called police to request a supervisor.

When her husband rang the doorbell to come back in, she tried to close the door behind him. Again Cameron blocked it with his foot, she said. "She's getting her clothes tonight or you're going to jail," she said he told her.

"She's not coming back in here, and neither are you," she replied.

Cameron reached around her husband to grab her shirt and pull her outside. She pulled away. The officer then forced his way in, locking the door behind him, she said.

She grabbed onto the railing of a nearby staircase as her husband tried to intervene. Cameron then arrested her husband, she said. She called 911 on her cellphone while he was being handcuffed and asked the dispatcher to record the call.

Cameron then wrested her away from the railing, pressed her to the floor and put one handcuff on her right wrist, she said. In her left hand, she held the cellphone to her chest as he tugged on her left arm, and she resisted, she said.

Cameron was on his knees and she was on her back on the floor, she said. "He just reached back, I mean from heaven, and socked me in the eye," she said. When she came to, a police lieutenant was standing over her. "You're under arrest," he told her.

The bleeding was profuse, she said. "I soaked two towels with blood and still had a puddle on the floor." A cut on the bridge of her nose needed two stitches. So much blood went down her throat she coughed it back up, she said. An ambulance came. She requested it take her to Midtown Medical Center in Columbus.

An officer followed and advised her to turn herself in when she was released. Her eye socket was fractured in two places, she said.

The next day she and her husband met with attorney Kenneth Funderburk and filed complaints against the police, and she surrendered to face charges.

In the latter, she was not alone, she said. The night before, police charged her husband with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor. The daughter-in-law also was arrested when Coty-Green's son informed the officers he had reported her assaulting him earlier.

Coty-Green said she was on her way to the hospital and her husband was being taken to jail when Shameka Shifflett started to drive away from Willow Trace Drive. That's when her son told officers about the earlier fight.

"She's getting ready to get in the car and drive off when he says, 'Wait a minute, you're going to let her roll off, and she's the one that hit me in the mouth earlier?'" Coty-Green said. Police then arrested Shameka Shifflett, too.

Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith said the officers who took Demetrius Shifflett's report were on a different shift than the one who later escorted Shameka Shifflett to Coty-Green's home, and they had neglected to share what they knew.

"That's part of the confusion on this case, obviously," he said.

Because of the impending lawsuit, Smith said, he is otherwise not at liberty to comment on details of the case.

A $1 million claim Funderburk filed May 23 on Coty-Green's behalf says the city and its agents are accused of trespassing, assault and battery, false arrest, excessive force and breaking and entering. Police violated Coty-Green's right to defend her home and "defend herself against an unlawful intrusion and against a false and unwarranted arrest," Funderburk wrote.

Funderburk makes the same claims on behalf of Spivey Lorenzo Green.

Phenix City Clerk Charlotte Sierra said the claims will be included in council's agenda for its Tuesday meeting.

Smith said Officer Cameron remains on duty.

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