Lagoge Graham had the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The 26-year-old Boca Raton resident was sitting in his car outside an apartment complex in Deerfield Beach just after a woman called to say that she’d heard five gunshots outside.
Four minutes later, a patrol car from the Broward Sheriff’s Office pulled up, and Graham was ordered out of the car and told to place his hands on the trunk. When he suggested the officers didn’t have a warrant to search his car or probable cause to arrest him, Officer Michael De La Nuez pulled out his Taser.
According to a lawsuit Graham recently filed against the BSO, De La Nuez shot him with the Taser and forced him to the ground. He continued to tase Graham while the other deputies joined in, kicking and punching him. Finally, they handcuffed Graham and took him to the Broward County jail, where he was charged with resisting arrest and battery of a law enforcement officer. Both charges were later thrown out.
Graham has no criminal record in Broward County and only a speeding ticket from 2008 in Palm Beach County. De La Nuez has two prior complaints dating from 2010 and 2012: a charge of not being courteous towards the public, and a charge of failing to safeguard a person in his custody. In both cases, the department ruled in his favor. In 2012, he was involved in what the department deemed a preventable accident, and recommended for driver improvement training.
It’s worth noting that Graham is black, but attorney Kevin Anderson, who represents him, doesn’t believe race was a factor in the incident. Still, it’s hard not to see the parallels to the recent shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile as well as countless other encounters when black men have been killed or seriously injured during what should have been straightforward police stops.
“We do understand the gravity of shots being fired in the community,” says Anderson, Graham's lawyer. “But it’s beyond me why there had to be that level of force used against Mr. Graham. No one had a weapon; no one did anything that was threatening.”
Graham, who declined to comment for this story, is asking for damages in excess of $15,000. The Broward Sheriff's Office also declined to comment, as is its policy when there is pending litigation.
You can see the full text of the lawsuit below: