EUCLID-A former Euclid resident filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court Thursday against the City of Euclid and Police Officer James Aoki for “false arrest, malicious prosecution, and excessive force.”
Attorneys representing 46-year-old Shajuan Gray say the hardworking PhD candidate is still traumatized by what happened the night of March 27, 2017.
“She had just taken a shower and was having family over for dinner. She heard a knock on the door,” said Attorney Sarah Gelsomino, representing Ms. Gray, “She just opened it a little to see who it was and it was a police officer.”
According to the police report, officer Aoki was responding to a noise complaint and told her to turn the music down which she did.
Aoki stated that she refused to give him her name and “proceeded to close the door on me.” At which point, he alleged a struggle ensued and Gray was arrested for obstruction, resisting arrest, and a noise disturbance.
A jury found Gray “not guilty” of all charges and Attorney Gelsomino, strongly refutes the officers' description of events.
She says, "Gray was brutalized and victimized for no reason and no crime."
She also added, "Gray immediately turned the music down and only wanted to get dressed before speaking with the officer, but Aoki would not allow her to do that." On police body camera video Gray is heard repeatedly asking for clothing but taken away wearing only a bath towel.
“He forced her door open, pushed her back, pushed her down on a freezer, her top fell down, so she was exposed, her breasts and stomach were exposed and while she face-down he was pulling her arms back aggressively to handcuff her,” said Gelsomino.
A neighbor had to help pull the towel up and cover her breasts as she was taken downstairs and put in the back of a cruiser.
“She was extremely humiliated,” said Gelsomino.
In August 2017, a Cleveland man was brutally assaulted while being arrested for driving with a suspended license in Euclid. Dashcam video recorded beating and went viral. Officer Michael Amiott was fired a few months later and the driver filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in federal court.
The most recent lawsuit filed on behalf of Shajuan Gray is seeking damages as well as sweeping changes within the Euclid Police Department in terms of training, screening, and use of force.
“The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages which is really is the only provision provided for under the law for her individual damages. The Monell claim though does give us the opportunity to seek declaratory and injunctive relief,” said Gelsomino, “So no one has to suffer again like Ms. Gray did and continues to suffer.”
The Euclid NAACP released the following statement Friday afternoon:
"At this time we are concerned about the serious allegations that have surfaced involving officer Aoki of the Euclid Police Department.
The Euclid NAACP received information that there had been a lawsuit filed against officer Aoki for 'unconstitutional search and seizure and malicious prosecution.' It is important for the public to know that the victim in this case is truly a 'victim' as she has been acquitted of all charges. It was also discovered that Officer Aoki was not forthcoming in his testimony. 'At no time should citizens be comfortable with this type of behavior by any officer of the law.'
Euclid NAACP will be conducting an investigation to review any civil rights violations against the victim. Likewise, while the investigation is pending and due to the egregiousness of the allegations, we will make a request that the City of Euclid relieve Aoki from his full duties until the investigation is concluded. We believe that this is within the best interest of the community as there were errors in the officer’s testimony and pending any claims that may come forth in response to this.
We are hoping that by working together with the Mayor and the Euclid’s Police Department, we can get rid of officers that make community policing relationships difficult. It’s the only way trust will be restored by all involved."