The woman injured by a Syracuse police officer when she was arrested in Armory Square plans to sue the department, the city, officer Leonard Brown and the ambulance company that treated her, lawyers said Thursday.
Lawyers Jesse Ryder and Charles Bonner filed a notice of claim with the city on Thursday. They plan to file a federal lawsuit in the next year.
Uniyah Chatman appeared Thursday with her lawyers for a rally in front of City Hall. She still appeared to be in pain and moved around using a wheelchair.
Chatman and her mother, Shelly Burke, said Chatman still has trouble with her memory, has severe headaches and needs help using the bathroom. She struggles with things like remembering passwords, Burke said.
Chatman spoke briefly to the crowd of about 20.
“I would love to see some change within the department, and the force and protocols that are used by the department,” Chatman said. “I would love to see Leonard Brown not be an officer anymore. I would like to see officers that provide safety and protection to our community.”
Her mother revealed a key detail about Chatman’s treatment after the incident: according to Burke, AMR first responders used ketamine to sedate Chatman. Bonner said lawyers have not yet received or reviewed her medical records.
Police in Aurora, Colorado used ketamine when they stopped 23-year-old Elijah McClain in the summer of 2019. McClain later died. Officers and paramedics were charged with criminally negligent homicide in that case.
The incident sparked widespread concern from medical professionals about the use of ketamine during arrests.
Police arrested Chatman on Jan. 28 after she was accused of stealing a tip jar from Nick’s Tomato Pie, a pizza shop in Armory Square.
She had gone out that night with friends to celebrate her graduation from trades school and an offer for an out-of-state construction job, Ryder said.
Chatman has maintained she left the tip jar in the restaurant.
She accused the officer who arrested her, Brown, of saying to her, “If you want to be a man, I’ll show you how to be a man.” Chatman said that Brown was referencing her sexuality.
Police accused Chatman of spitting at Brown, who then spun Chatman around and slammed her head and body into a glass window and brick siding of a wall while arresting her. The incident can be viewed on camera footage released by the department.
Chatman accused Brown of hitting and choking her as she was put in a police car, according to her notice of claim.
Brown was not wearing a body camera during the arrest, according to the police department. He typically works as a plainclothes detective, a group of officers who has not yet been required to wear body cameras, according to police chief Joseph Cecile.
Paramedics injected Chatman with ketamine at the Onondaga County jail after the arrest, her mother said at the news conference. Her mother, Burke, said she went to the Public Safety Building that night.
“I came screaming, saying, ‘Take her to the hospital, she has a lot of allergies, she has a lot of issues with a lot of medicines, and I don’t know what ketamine is,'” Burke said.
While Chatman was on a gurney that night, video shown by police showed Chatman calling out for several people, including her mother and Syracuse police officer Nikki Hendrix, according to Ryder.
Hendrix is suing the department for discrimination and is also represented by Ryder.
Chatman’s mother said that the incident has changed her daughter. Bonner said the incident had taken Chatman’s “peace and tranquility.”
“This is going to be a long haul for her,” Burke said. She’s different. She’s not the same person.”
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