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$12 million lawsuit brought against Syracuse for incident involving police, student

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Liza Acquah (center), with her attorneys behind her, stands with Black Lives Matter supporters at Syracuse City Hall.

A $12 million lawsuit has been filed against the city of Syracuse, Police Chief Frank Fowler, and a Syracuse police officer accused of using excessive force while arresting a 14-year-old special needs student at Nottingham High School. The incident took place more than a year ago, and started when the student was suspended and told to leave the school.

Liza Acquah, the mother of the student, Jabari Boykins, said her son suffered from a fractured arm and busted lip after the incident. She said a surveillance video shows her son being assaulted by Officer Vallon Smith.

“I want him to go to jail," Acquah said. "I want him to pay. I want him off the force. I literally want his badge, personally, as a trophy piece, for my own self, so I can see that he will no longer do this to any other child or adult. He’s reckless. This is preposterous.”

Acquah’s attorney, Charles Bonner, said they want as much money as it will take to stop police officers from abusing people.

“This kid is hurt for life," Bonner said. "He is traumatized for life. He will never forget being assaulted by someone he trusted, someone he obeyed. And what did he get for obeying the officer? He gets attacked, slammed to the ground and with a broken wrist. That is a major abuse of trust.”

Bonner has a different lawsuit against the city and the same police officer for a separate excessive force incident that happened in 2016.

Black Lives Matter supporters held a rally outside of Syracuse City Hall on Tuesday in support of Boykins. The office of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said Walsh has reviewed the incident with Chief Fowler. The Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office has an ongoing investigation into the incident involving Officer Smith and Boykins. The Syracuse Police Department said Smith is still currently a school resource officer.    

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.