Winnfield, LA — Tanisha White’s nightmare with police started with a handshake and a hug for Officer Justin Curry, a Winnfield police officer. But before the contact would be over, White would lose her right eye and Curry would be accused of using excessive force against the female veteran.
The incident took place a year ago, November 5th, 2018 when at some point in the evening, White was asked to leave a friend’s house. She refused to leave so police were called to the scene.
Upon arrival, Curry met and hugged White, but soon started asking questions. The homeowner’s son came outside to speak to police and described how White simply wouldn't leave. He wanted her arrested, a suggestion which angered White who allegedly lunged at the man.
That’s when the officer pushed White, causing her to fall to the ground. She got back up and came after the officer again, but this time Curry chose to deploy his JPX pepper spray gun. The police-issued pepper spray gun is propelled by black powder and sends a stream of pepper spray hurdling at 400 mph. That’s when White fell again and this time, she and her lawyers say, she lost the sight in her left eye.
White was transported to the hospital where the prosecutor says she received several fractures to the bones in her face and a permanent injury to her eye. In March, Winn Parish District Attorney Christopher Nevils, published his opinion on the findings of the LA State Bureau of Investigations, interviews with eyewitnesses, and hospital staff, as well as the findings from examining Curry’s police report.
Nevils explained because White fell two times, hitting her face on the concrete, it was impossible to determine if her loss of sight was due to the pepper spray or the fact she fell once before being sprayed. He also said according to doctor’s notes her injuries (including the one to her sight) was caused by blunt force trauma from hitting the pavement. As a result, Nevils chose not to charge Curry with battery for an excessive use of force against White.
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Nevils’ decision not to prosecute Curry for causing White to lose her eyesight angered her lawyers. Lawyer Derrick Moore commented in April:
No matter what they say, we got to answer that question, and that question has to be answered in the court of law. Why did this individual suffer so much damage that she would lose sight in an eye and no arrest was made?
White and her lawyers are now suing and they’ll likely win. According to the lawsuit, Curry fired his pepper spray gun within 5 feet of White, something Nevils neglected to mention, at a distance which is not allowable according to the JPX manufacturers specifications. Curry, instead of calling an ambulance, called his father, who is also on the Winnfield police force.
The lawsuit makes no mention of White falling down twice but it does claim instead of calling White an ambulance, when Curry’s father arrived, they placed her in the back of a squad car and drove her to the hospital, further depriving her of potentially sight saving medical attention.
Also worth noting is the fact White was not charged with any crime. If she did strike or attempt to assault officer Curry she most surely would have been charged with assaulting a police officer. But instead, the lawsuit points out:
Ms. White was not armed with a weapon when she was shot by Officer Justin Curry. Ms. White was not committing a crime when she was shot by Officer Justin Curry. Ms. White was not charged with any criminal offense resulting from the November 5, 2018 incident.
A similar incident occurred in 2018 when a former Beaumont police officer deployed his JPX pepper spray gun ten inches from a suspect’s face permanently blinding a female suspect in both eyes. The officer, Enoch Clark, was charged in the crime but only had to serve 1440 hours of community service. The victim, Monique Hernandez, received an $18.5 million dollar settlement for her permanent loss of sight.