A Broward activist was allegedly beaten and tased at least five times at Broward County Jail last February. Stephanie "Billie" Auguiste was released after fewer than six hours, bruised and cut up. Though it has been more than seven months since the incident, the 30-year-old is still suffering from nerve damage, flashbacks, and panic attacks.
"We feel that police force was excessive," says Auguiste's lawyer, Barry Butin with the ACLU. "I would think once [with the Taser] would be more than enough. She's not a footballer for the Dolphins, just a woman of average height and weight."
Photos posted online show multiple scabs on Stephanie Auguiste's stomach and chest. The puncture wounds, which look like fang bites and are about 2 centimeters apart on a straight line, are consistent with being repeatedly shocked by a Taser. As the City of Fort Lauderdale brings forward criminal charges for trespassing, resisting arrest without violence, and disorderly conduct, Auguiste and other activists hope to raise awareness about the oft-unreported incidents of police brutality in jail.
"The way BSO treated Billie [Auguiste] is indicative of how society feels about inmates — that they're not human and shouldn't be treated with respect," says Jasmen Rogers, an organizer with the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward. "It's not just happening counties or states away; it's happening right here and BSO needs to take these complaints more seriously."
Broward Sheriff's Office spokesperson Veda Coleman-Wright says that Auguiste never filed a complaint against the officers and pointed out that only one officer fired the Taser at Auguiste. Though police records confirm that Auguiste was Tased five times, there is no mention of a beating. The officer that deployed the Taser reported that Auguiste was "combative" and "erratic" and grabbed a detention deputy's "arm and refused to let go."
It all started on February 2, when Auguiste refused to leave Fat Cats, a downtown Fort Lauderdale bar. Cops made the arrest for trespassing, resisting arrest without violence, and disorderly conduct. Police records state that Auguiste had to be carried to the patrol car and then taken to Broward County Jail.
According to police records, Auguiste was put in a booking search cell at around 1:30 a.m., then started banging, kicking, trying to remove hand restraints, and making threats to staff. When Auguiste grabbed a deputies' arm and didn't immediately loosen the grip, another officer fired a Taser at the abdomen area. Auguiste collapsed onto the floor screaming and crying, then tried to remove the prongs and stand up. The officer Tased again.
Police records state that Auguiste agreed to behave and the officer with the Taser listened outside the door during the strip search. Records state that Auguiste said "I'm going to get my period blood on all you bitches!" and hurled a bloody pad at a detention deputy. The officer with the Taser returned and deployed the Taser a third time. Auguiste tried to remove the probe again, but the officer "stunned Auguiste an additional two times."
Afterward, the activist complied, was dressed in a jail uniform, and was medically assessed by a nurse, then transferred to another facility for psychiatric treatment. Bond was posted a few hours later in the morning. A trial was set for November on trespassing, resisting arrest without violence, and disorderly conduct.
For the past seven months, Auguiste's friends in the Broward activist community have been trying to raise funds. They say Auguiste has done amazing activist work in Fort Lauderdale and Chicago, "supporting other activists who have been wrongfully imprisoned and those that have been targeted because of their race, gender, or class."
On an online fundraising site, activists says that since Auguiste has a 120-pound frame, deploying a Taser five times in a span of a few minutes was an "obvious attempt to try to kill." So far, friends have raised $1,385 for the legal case.
Though attorney Barry Butin agrees the force used against his client was excessive, he says that legally police officers are protected under qualified immunity against civil liabilities "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known."
Augiste's court date against the City of Fort Lauderdale is slated for November 8.
Auguiste released this statement later today:
I think it’s important for the media to understand that surviving police violence can’t always be put into words. There is no specific branch of psychology nor literature on how to heal from it. There is no real police trauma or police violence healing groups for queer black woman, yet there are endless upon endless amounts of literature on it’s existence along with its colonial history. This is because it is black and brown trauma. Things like Black Psychology can only touch upon fragments of the actual healing process. Black trauma and police violence is not something to be displayed in thirty second clips of horror porn along your timeline. It is something that needs to stop and it’s healing process needs to be respected. I need my healing process to be respected. I am existing as a colonized people that is experiencing genocide. Black people are experiencing genocide and we are rarely, if ever given space and time to heal from it. People who have experienced police violence (if they survive) spend most of their time defending their demeanor or existence than actually having time to express the pain from having their humanity desecrated and mocked. This is something police are doing now with slander and lies about my arrest. It is too often that black women are defiled for being vocal, mouthy or feeling comfortable saying ‘Fuck the Police’ while their rights are being violated. My experience is not isolated nor is it a rarity. Police violence is routine. Racism is routine. Living as a colonized people is experiencing oppression as a daily routine. As we speak out against it we are muffled and our experiences are vandalized if they are even heard. I think the most important thing for black people like myself is to have a space to heal from our continuous traumas we face.