BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man accused of human trafficking is suing the Bakersfield Police Department over alleged excessive force during a 2020 arrest in which he says officers broke his arm despite him complying with their commands.
Melton Smith is also suing the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, alleging jail officials failed to provide proper care for his injuries and refused to give him prescribed pain medication.
“Plaintiff suffers and will suffer from permanent deformity of his right arm, and more than likely will have permanent nerve damage in his right arm,” according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Smith by Costa Mesa-based attorney Brian M. Bush.
Proof of service has been filed and the next hearing is scheduled in August. 17 News has reached out to attorneys representing the city and county.
Smith is facing multiple charges — including human trafficking and rape of a minor — from another arrest in 2021. He’s held on $1 million bail and due back in court Friday.
On Dec. 28, 2020, police were dispatched to a reported domestic disturbance where Smith was identified as the suspect, according to the suit, filed in February. An officer pulled Smith over after what police said was a half-mile chase, the suit says.
Smith got out of the vehicle and complied with officers’ commands to get on the ground, the suit says. More officers and a police dog arrived.
An officer told Smith to stand and he got up and faced them with his hands held high, according to the suit. Smith followed orders and turned back around and placed his hands behind his back. Then he knelt down.
“Stand up!,” an officer shouted according to the suit.
He stood up but another officer told him to get back on his knees, according to the suit.
A “confused and scared” Smith continued to comply, the suit says.
He was then told to place his hands on his head and interlace his fingers, which he did. He looked toward the officers and said, “Don’t shoot,” according to the suit.
An officer walked up, grabbed Smith’s wrists and belt from the back and slammed him to the ground, according to the suit. It alleges two officers got on top of him and used their body weight and “painful arm control holds” to hold him down.
One officer hit him with a closed fist multiple times in the rib area, the suit says, and the other used an arm bar on his right arm. Smith’s arm broke and he started screaming, the suit says. Officers pulled him off the ground and took him to Kern Medical, according to the suit.
Officers left him at the hospital and told him to turn himself in when he was released, which Smith did, according to the suit. He was released on bail Dec. 29, 2020.
Police arrested Smith on the human trafficking charges Jan. 19, 2021, and he remains housed in Lerdo Jail.
His arm still hurt following his second arrest and he suspected it was not healing properly, the suit says.
“Plaintiff put in numerous requests for medical care between February and May 2021 to have his arm evaluated and treated, as well as a number of requests for stronger pain medication, all of which were denied outright (as in the medication) or suffered months-long delay in processing . . . ,” the suit says.
Four months later, the suit says, deputies took him to Kern Medical for an evaluation. Smith received a referral for an “urgent” appointment with an orthopedic specialist and was prescribed the painkiller hydrocodone.
Deputies returned him to jail, where officials refused to give him the drug, according to the suit. They also did not immediately schedule the referral appointment and, after two cancelled appointments, his arm still had not been examined by a specialist, the suit says.