HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The mother of a 17-year-old boy has filed a federal lawsuit against the Huntsville Police Department claiming that officers killed the boy by tackling him to the ground, breaking his ribs, pepper-spraying him, and shoving a sharp object down his throat.
In March, the boy’s mother, Nancy Smith, filed the claim for assault and battery, wrongful death and excessive force.
The young man, whose first name is not mentioned in the lawsuit, was allegedly set up in a drug bust. When plainclothes officers – who did not identify themselves as officers – approached Smith, he fled.
An officer caught Smith and threw him to the ground, where he was cuffed, forcibly restrained and pepper-sprayed.
As described in the lawsuit, police were under the impression that the teenager had swallowed a bag of drugs. An officer who had no medical training proceeded to shove a “sharp oblong object” down Smith’s throat to locate the bag.
However, as Nancy Smith maintains in her lawsuit, “no bag was found or recovered from the scene nor was a bag found or retrieved from the hospital where Minor N.S. was treated until his death.”
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences has released an autopsy report classifying the death of the 17-year-old boy as undetermined. The report specifies that the boy had suffered blunt force injuries and suggested asphyxiation as a probable cause of death; it also noted that nothing unusual had been found in his stomach.
Because Smith’s blood samples were discarded and were never tested, the autopsy report could not definitively rule out the possibility that he died of a drug overdose.
Although the incident occurred a year ago, local reporters were unable to obtain the autopsy report for months.
The Huntsville Police Department has declined to comment on the case.