Earlier this year, a police officer forced a Georgia teen on the ground at gunpoint in his parents' driveway for a seat belt violation. Last week, attorneys for high school senior Montre Merritt announced a federal lawsuit alleging brutality, wrongful arrest and racial profiling. They are seeking $12.5 million from the city of Waycross and Officer Cory Gay.
According to news reports, Merritt, who is a standout football player with a 3.5 GPA, had just pulled into his family's driveway on the morning of Jan. 18 when Gay reportedly approached him and placed a gun to his head, ordering him to the ground facedown. Merritt complied and was handcuffed and arrested. When his mother walked outside to see what was happening to her son, she reportedly was told that he was being apprehended for not wearing a seat belt.
"That night when it happened, I felt like I could have been another Trayvon Martin case," Merritt told News 4 Jax. "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."
Shortly after Merritt's attorney filed a complaint, the Waycross police chief suspended Gay for five days and ordered him to go through training for violating the general order of "use of force."
"What we have to do is target those wrong police officers and those wrong police departments that will harbor and maintain practices that take the lives and take the rights of citizens," Merritt's lawyer, Reginald Greene, told the news station. "Levar Jones was shot in South Carolina for a seat belt violation. Mike Jones was killed and Eric Garner was choked to death. We can't allow this to continue to happen, and we will have zero tolerance."
The Waycross police chief told the news station that he was unable to comment on accusations that have been made against his officer because he had yet to see the lawsuit, but he noted that he planned to speak with the officer's attorneys in the next few days.
Read more at News 4 Jax.