Forrest City, AR--Long time trial lawyer, Mike Easley doesn't have think back too far to remember how he knows West Memphis Police officer Erik Sammis. The officer accused of shooting and killing 12 year old Deaunta Farrow on the night of June 22, 2007. Easley says, "My client, Tim Howard was assaulted, the police of course said he pulled the first blow, or made a threat or something, witnesses did not support that."
It was the night of July 12, 2003 Easley filed a federal lawsuit in Eastern Arkansas on behalf of Tim Howard, his mother, Kathy and father, Wilbur. The lawsuit named Officer Erik Sammis, Officer Charles Dabbs and Riverside International Speedway, Inc. Easley says, "He was knocked to the ground, he was jumped on by 2 or 3 officers they subdued him got him handcuffed, then grabbed his head back by the hair and sprayed him in the face with pepper spray."
Wilbur Howard, Tim's father says, "They had pepper sprayed my son so bad he was just in terrific pain." Wilbur tells News Channel 3 neither he or his wife made any threats to police or used any force, they did however, continue to beg the officers to stop hurting their son. That's when Howard says Officer Sammis responded by punching his wife, Kathy in the jaw, "He threw my wife down, came at me, grabbed my arm, twisted it behind my back, pushed me into a pick up truck that had the door open and had my head pinned under neath the break pedal." Easley says, "He struck this lady who was about 48 years old in the jaw, then grabbed her by the arm, she had huge bruises on her arm."
The nightmare continued as the family says Officer Sammis threw Tim in the back of a squad car, shut the door, and turned the heat up full blast, witnesses say that lasted 20 minutes or so, then the lawsuit claims both Tim and his father, Wilbur were taken to the police department by the officers who drove at wild and reckless speeds in excess of 90 miles an hour.
All three of the plaintiffs allege a violation of their constitutional rights, unprovoked attacks and the use of excessive force....but after the case lingered on for a while, the Howard family decided to settle, Howard says, "It went on and one and had several delay's and no one could go on with their lives, it was absolutely over shadowing all of our lives." They settled for an undisclosed amount of money. Now the family tells News Channel 3 they feel guilty, wondering if they had continued pressing forward with the case would have stopped any future incidents with Officer Erik Sammis, Howard says, "I feel a little bit of responsibility now that I did drop it, it had nothing to do with the money. but if internal affairs would have listened to me and done something with this guy, I would have been glad to let it go."
News Channel 3 tried to reach Sgt. Erik Sammis, as we have with the past stories we've done on the incident involving the shooting death of 12 year old Deaunta Farrow. No one answered the door at his West Memphis home to respond to our questions.