Multi-million Dollar Lawsuit Filed One Year After Officer Allegedly Assaulted High School Student

Apr 3, 2018

Liza Acquah, center, is joined by supporters on the steps of city hall. Syracuse Police Officer Vallon Smith has been named in a civil lawsuit alleging he assaulted her then-14-year-old son at Nottingham High School.
Credit Chris Bolt / WAER News

A $12 million civil lawsuit was filed today against the City of Syracuse, Police Chief Frank Fowler and Officer Vallon Smith after alleged police misconduct. Officer Smith allegedly broke a 14-year-old student’s arm at Nottingham High School in February of last year after he was suspended and had been asked to leave the school’s premises.  Jabari Boykins’ mother says he has autism and bipolar disorder.  Lawyer Charles Bonner says the officer assaulted Boykins without probable cause.

“This was a special needs kid that everyone knew was special needs. But no kid, no 14-year-old kid, should be slammed to the ground.”

Bonner says a video of the interaction shows Boykins was complying to the officer’s requests when the alleged assault occurred. He claims that the video speaks for itself and it contradicts what Smith said in his police report. Bonner is confident that the evidence will be used in court.

“This video will come into evidence, mainly because it comes in for credibility, for impeachment. In every trial, credibility is always an issue. The officer has written down a false statement, indicating that the kid balled his fists up and was going to attack the officer. The video tape does not show that.”

Credit Chris Bolt / WAER News

Bonner says the burden of proof is different in the civil law suit than in a criminal lawsuit. He describes it as providing enough credible evidence plus an extra drop as opposed to providing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.  Officer Smith has prior incidents of misconduct and abuse, though it’s not known if he was ever disciplined.  Boykins’ mother, Liza Acquah, says her son is suffering as a result of the alleged assault.

“That could be any one of your children out there, in any community, in any color. Please, I want justice for my son. I want this man off the streets.”

In a statement, Mayor Ben Walsh says he has reviewed the alleged incident with Police Chief Fowler and is continuing discussion with the school’s Superintendent. The incident is under review by the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office for possible criminal charges against Officer Vallon Smith.