Woman Who Claimed to Have Personal Hygiene Product Removed by Officers Publicly Receives $205,000 Settlement
|thenorthstar||Oct 25, 2019|
A woman who had her personal hygiene product removed in public by a police officer will receive an over $200,000 settlement.
The City of San Antonio approved that Natalie Simms will receive $205,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed against the San Antonio Police Department in 2018, The New York Times reported. In 2016, Simms, 40, said she was approached by officers while she was sitting on the sidewalk of a public street in San Antonio, Texas, waiting for her boyfriend and talking on the phone, according to the lawsuit. Simms had driven her car to the location, and it was parked across the side-street from where she was sitting.
Simms consented to a vehicle search, but officers found nothing illegal, according to the lawsuit. Despite this, Detective Mara Wilson drove to the scene after officers requested a female officer to search Simms.
“Natalie believed that she was not free to go, must be searched, and would not be allowed to leave the scene unless and until Officer Wilson searched her,” the lawsuit reads.
The suit states that Wilson, who is now retired, arrived on the scene and conducted a vaginal cavity search on Simms in front of several male officers. Wilson reportedly pulled Simms pants and underwear open in public and used her flashlight to search the area, according to the lawsuit. The retired officer also pulled a string, which was a tampon, out of Simms vagina.
The conversation between Simms and Wilson reads:
WILSON: Uh-huh. Are you wearing a tampon, too? SIMMS: Yes. WILSON: Okay. I just want to make sure that's what it is. Is that a tampon? SIMMS: Come on. Yes. WILSON: Huh? Is that a tampon? SIMMS: It's full of blood, right? Why would you do that? WILSON: I don't know. It looked like it had stuff in there. SIMMS: There ain't nothing in there.
Simms did not consent to the vaginal search, the lawsuit states. Wilson also searched “the exterior of Natalie’s vagina even after searching Natalie’s vaginal cavity.” The officer also made comments about the “amount of pubic hair on Natalie’s body.”
“Officer Wilson did not apologize, say that she had made a mistake, or express any remorse whatsoever about the manner in which she had violated Natalie. She frankly did not care,” the lawsuit reads. The suit states that Simms suffered “mental anguish and emotional distress” from the incident.
“Even though Natalie was allowed to leave the scene, a part of her dignity and self-worth was left behind. Officer Wilson’s actions and inaction caused, proximately caused, and were the producing cause of damages suffered by Natalie,” the lawsuit read.
In a statement to The New York Times following the settlement, Simms’ attorney, Dean Malone, said he and the city attorney negotiated the settlement back in August.
“No amount of money will replace what’s been taken away from Natalie, which is her dignity,” Malone told The Times. “What matters to Natalie is at least an acknowledgment that she was harmed.”
San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement to KSAT: “We evaluate cases and look for potential resolutions without the necessity of proceeding to trial. We were able to resolve this matter with this proposed settlement and believe it to be in the best interest of all involved.”
In April, a Black couple in Colorado filed a lawsuit against the Aurora Police Department and an Aurora Police officer after the officer allegedly searched them and their vehicle without probable cause during a traffic stop over a broken tail light. The lawsuit states that Angela Brown and Keith Penny were searched by officer Andrew McDermott during a traffic stop on the corner of East Colfax Avenue and North Sable Boulevard without legal cause.
The officer had the couple step out of the vehicle after checking their driver’s licenses and running a criminal background check on both of them. Civil rights attorney Raymond Bryant previously told The North Star that Brown’s pat-down was “borderline intrusive.”
“This case concerns the careless and cavalier harassment of a young Black couple when a white veteran police officer stopped a vehicle for a broken tail light and subjected the couple to an unnecessarily long detention that included searches of the couple’s bodies and vehicle, without a legal basis,” the lawsuit stated, according to The Denver Post.
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.