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An Alabama man who had to have his hand surgically removed last year after being roughed up and restrained in handcuffs that were too tight is now suing the officer involved in the incident in a federal civil rights case
Giovanni Loyola, 26, was arrested on February 16, 2020, after a fight apparently broke out and gunfire was reported to police that night at a Birmingham trailer park, the lawsuit and police report state. The legal complaint alleges that while Loyola was watching TV that night, he answered the door to his home when the Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies arrived. The complaint alleges that one officer then "slammed [Loyola] against a car, threw him to the ground and punched him in the face with his fist."
The police report, which conflicts with the account in the complaint, states that Loyola was inebriated and became combative after refusing to allow officers inside, according to The Washington Post.
That night, Loyola was handcuffed "behind his back extremely tightly" on the ground outside for about 45 minutes, according to his lawyer, Jon C. Goldfarb. His mother was outside the home as police conducted a “safety check” inside. An officer placed a knee on Loyola’s back for a period of time, Goldfarb told Oxygen.com in an interview; he was later arrested on disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. Goldfarb said that at least one of Loyola’s brothers was there but that the family did not hear any gunfire that night.
Loyola says that when he repeatedly complained of a loss of feeling in his hand from the cuffs, the officer who restrained him — listed as “Godber” in the complaint — refused to loosen them. Christopher Godber is listed as a deputy with the Jefferson County sheriff’s office.
As he lay on the ground, complaining about the tight handcuffs, Godber allegedly told Loyola that he “doesn’t know how to be fucking quiet,” the complaint states.
The handcuffs were left on for “hours,” according to the lawsuit, before they were removed at a Birmingham jail. But Loyola remained detained until February 28, 2020, on outstanding traffic warrants and was shuffled around multiple facilities, Goldfarb said, as his left hand got worse. He was eventually rushed to the hospital with grey fingertips and was told he’d need surgery. That resulted in the removal of two of his fingertips in early March of 2020.
Ultimately, surgeons had to amputate his entire left hand.
“It was real painful,” Loyola told AL.com in an interview. “It’s horrible. I wish that pain on nobody. It’s just really unexpected. I have no words for it...When I first started noticing my fingers turning blue, turning black, it scared me so much. I’d be by myself at home. It really scared me, and I haven’t been the same since.”
The 14-page federal complaint alleges Godber violated Loyola’s constitutional rights in an unlawful arrest in which excessive force was used. The Jefferson County sheriff's office did not immediately respond to a message left by Oxygen.com on Friday.
When placing individuals in handcuffs, police officers are trained to check tightness to ensure that a suspect is unable to escape or will be injured. A double lock ensures that appropriate tension remains while the individual is being restrained. Goldfarb said that it is unclear if the double lock was used during Loyola’s arrest. He’s hoping that more evidence will emerge that shows the conduct of the officers that night.
“Hopefully there's body cam that will clear all this up,” he said.
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