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D.C. Woman Awarded $250,000 after Assault by Metro Transit Police

by Christopher Zoukis

Gloria Halcomb was awarded $250,000 in federal court after she was falsely arrested and subjected to excessive force by the District of Columbia Metro Transit Police.

On October 30, 2001, Halcomb entered the Union Station stop of the Washington, D.C., subway system. Upon entering, she was stopped by Metro Police Officer Nopadon Woods, who believed he saw Halcomb passing through the fare gate without using her fare card.

Halcomb showed Woods that her card had plenty of money on it, and that she had additional fare cards as well as money in her wallet. She asked Woods to simply re-run the fare card. Woods instead demanded her identification card, allegedly bending her fingers backward trying to get at it. Halcomb told Woods that he hurt her fingers and that she was going to file a complaint.
Woods then placed Halcomb under arrest. He performed a full-body search, causing injuries to her right side, then allegedly stomped on her foot before spreading her legs apart.

After this confrontation, which lasted nearly 90 minutes, Woods drove Halcomb around Washington for another 12 hours, including to D.C. General Hospital for medical treatment. She sustained injuries to her hands and wrist, and had bruising on her inner thighs and right foot.

A friend paid the $50 to secure Halcomb's release from jail over the alleged failure to pay a $1.10 fare.

Halcomb filed a complaint against Woods, the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority and the District of Columbia in federal court for civil rights violations. She claimed assault, battery, unreasonable search, unreasonable seizure, excessive use of force, and false arrest. She also claimed to have suffered subsequent emotional distress with nervous vomiting. The Authority and District were dismissed from the case prior to the trial against Woods.

Woods denied bending Halcomb's fingers back when reaching for her identification card, arguing that it must have happened when he handcuffed her. A police expert for Woods agreed that bending Halcomb's fingers back slowly to obtain her identification and stomping on her foot would have constituted excessive force, but believed probable cause existed for the arrest and search.
The jury awarded Halcomb $250,000.

See: Halcomb v. Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, et al., United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Case No. 1:02-cv-01336 (Nov. 12, 2009)


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Related legal case

Halcomb v. Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, et al., United States District Court for the District of Columbia



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