A Georgia teenager who was forced to the ground by gunpoint over a seat belt violation earlier this year is now suing the local police department over the incident. Montre’ Merritt, now a first-year college student, has filed a $12.5 million lawsuit against the Waycross Police Department.
On Jan. 18, Merritt was pulling into his home driveway when Waycross Officer Cory Gay stopped him for the violation. Gay drew his service weapon on Merritt and forced him to the ground despite protests by his mother. Although Gay was found guilty of using excessive force, suspended five days without pay and forced to take a course on Use Of Force, the family felt that it wasn’t a strong enough punishment.
Merritt, who now attends a four-year university, said he had a 3.5 GPA in high school and was an all-star athlete and he can’t believe this happened to him.
“Coming from me being a huge role model in my community, to see my mom witness that. That was one of the most painful things I could ever imagine for her,” Merritt said. “The pain that I still feel. The tears that I still cry. Everything is just real in reality. I have to wake up with this on my heart and on my mind every day, and it hurts.”
Merritt said he still has flashbacks from the incident.
“That night when it happened, I felt like I could have been another Trayvon Martin case,” Merritt said. “And just hearing how Mike Brown went about his case for doing the right thing. He still got shot. I just feel like I don’t want any of my friends or family, I don’t want that to happen to anybody.”
Merritt’s lawyer, Reginald Greene, has filed the lawsuit based on accusations that Gay racially profiled his client, used excessive force and negligent supervision among other reasons. The Waycross case has garnered support from other families who have lost loved ones to police, and the comparisons to the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases are evident.
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