PHOENIX — A Phoenix woman wants to sue the City of Phoenix for $12.5 million amid claims that officers with the Phoenix Police Department sexually assaulted her and conducted a body cavity search against her will.
"They took me back to the station and they illegally cavity searched me," Erica Reynolds says in a video she posted to social media in January. "They violated me in a way that I ain't ever been touched."
On Monday, her attorneys and a local organization, held a press conference and demanded justice. They also filed a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, with the city.
"What happened to Erica on December 26, 2018 is indisputably unconstitutional and criminal," her attorney, Heather Hamel said, at the press conference.
Hamel said Reynolds was pulled over by police after they saw her meeting with a man being investigated for alleged drug trafficking. She said a pat down and search of her car came up clean so she was taken into custody where an officer performed a body cavity search without a warrant.
"Eventually after finding nothing, the act stopped," Parris Wallace, a member of Poder in Action, said. "But the pain and trauma was just the beginning."
According to Phoenix Police Department policy, physical intrusion must only be done by a medical doctor and only with a warrant or the person's consent.
"The five officers we know were involved violated policy and never even bothered to draft a police report documenting their encounter with Erica," Hamel said.
Hamel said Reynolds suffered from bleeding because of the cavity search. She claims Reynolds went to the hospital and told medical personnel she believed she was raped by police. Hamel said medical staff reported the sexual assault to Phoenix police, but claims the department declined to investigate.
Hamel said, a few months later, police pulled Reynolds over while she was on her way to a city council meeting to speak out about the alleged abuse. Hamel said Reynolds was questioned for hours. She claimed her client was only released after she provided incriminating statements.
The "probable cause" statement sent to ABC15, from Hamel, details Reynolds' alleged involvement with a drug trafficking organization.
"They recommended charges against her," Hamel said. "These charges have not been pursued by a prosecutor to date."
Phoenix police confirm a female officer did use "physical intrusion" on Reynolds to look for drugs. She didn't find any. But after an internal investigation, police say the officer was disciplined and is currently suspended.
An incident report states in a wire-tapped phone call after the search, Reynolds allegedly admits to a drug trafficking suspect that she "stuffed" the drugs, implying they were in her body and officers didn't get it. The report adds she told the suspect she had to go "wash herself" off.
Once arrested in February, the report details the interview between Reynolds and an officer. The officer says Reynolds kept interrupting him, and at first denies knowing anything about the drug trafficking organization.
The report states Reynolds eventually waves her Miranda Rights and allegedly admits to hiding narcotics in her body the day she was pulled over. Her attorney says police forced her to make incriminating statements. However, police say there were numerous wire-tapped phone calls throughout an 18-month long investigation showing her involvement.
The case regarding her alleged involvement in the drug trafficking organization is being handled by the Attorney General's Office. A spokesperson said its an ongoing matter and they cannot comment further at this time.