Imagine sitting in your living room, relaxing with your family after a hard day’s work. All of a sudden, without a knock or any warning, swarms of armed police officers burst into your home. After forcing you to the ground and holding you at gunpoint, they drag you outside and raid your home, destroying all your belongings without a single explanation. Now imagine you are 69 years old, and that due to an existing heart condition and post-traumatic stress, your beloved spouse of 51 years passes just weeks after the incident. How would you endure?
This is exactly what happened to Nelda Price, a Black healthcare professional and lifelong Fort Worth resident, who is filing a lawsuit against the city of Fort Worth, Texas.
On the evening of March 11, 2020, Nelda Price and her husband John Richard Price, both sixty-nine years old, were in their home when multiple Fort Worth Police officers smashed in the doors, stormed into the house, pointed guns at Mr. and Mrs. Price, and ordered them to raise their hands in the air. The officers used excessive force – even though the Prices did not possess a single weapon, had not resisted orders, and did not do anything that would make them appear to be a threat.
Despite the Prices’ complete compliance, the officers forced them to the ground of their living room at gunpoint, zip-cuffed their hands, removed them from their home, and unlawfully detained them in the front yard. Fort Worth Police officers guarded the Prices and silently stood over them, refusing to answer their questions, as other officers ransacked the residence for several hours, causing substantial damage to their home. At no point did any of the officers communicate the reason behind the raid or the detainment, even as Mrs. Price repeatedly begged for an explanation.
As the night dragged on, John Richard Price began feeling ill, as he was overdue for his heart medication. He and Mrs. Price pleaded with officers to allow them to locate his medication, but their many requests were ignored. As Mr. Price’s condition worsened, Mrs. Price urged the officers to call for an ambulance. He was treated by emergency medical personnel on the front lawn as the officers continued to ransack their home.
It wasn’t until several hours later when a knowledgeable local officer arrived on the scene and told the other officers that the Prices were not the suspects, that Fort Worth police permitted them to return to their home.
The Prices were proud of the modest house they spent much of their lives in and owned outright. This incident of police brutality caused extensive property damage and additional and unexpected medical fees for John. Both Mr. and Mrs. Price suffered from progressively worse post-traumatic stress in the weeks that followed, ultimately leading to Mr. Price’s untimely passing due to his now-worsened conditions.
“I was reluctant to take action. It isn’t in my nature to be the one to take a stand for my rights, but I just couldn’t let this go. After hearing about the police in the Breonna Taylor case being let off so easily, I knew that I had to speak up and stand up for what happened to us,” said Mrs. Price.
Board-Certified and award-winning personal injury trial attorney Kay Van Wey of Van Wey, Presby & Williams is the co-lead counsel along with the law firm of Johnson, Zegan, Scott & Williams.
Ms. Van Wey possesses more than 30 years’ experience fighting for civil liberties. Her award-winning methodology has garnered a spot on the coveted “Best Lawyers in America 2020,” a recognition that comes from her passion to ensure that unethical practices that lead to avoidable unfortunate outcomes are removed or lessened so that no one else suffers.
“The incident speaks to a deeper systemic problem within the Fort Worth Police Department, which is marred by continuous cases of racial profiling, unlawful searches and seizures, unnecessary excessive force, inadequate training regarding the use of body cameras, employing and retaining officers with a history of abuse, and failing to adequately discipline law enforcement for misconduct,” explained Van Wey.
In September 2019, a task force convened by Fort Worth’s leaders found that city residents believed “that law enforcement unfairly targets African Americans,” that the problems exhibited by the City of Fort Worth are “systemic, structural, and institutional racism, not simply personal or individual behavior,” and that the City of Fort Worth has “failed to acknowledge this problem.”
The lawsuit was filed on October 21, 2020, and now VWPW and Kay Van Wey are ready to fight until we can achieve justice for Nelda and John Richard Price.