SAN LEANDRO, Calif. - A woman waiting for a CT scan to diagnose a potential head injury was punched in the head, grabbed by the throat and slammed onto a hospital bed by Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies, who wanted to take her to jail without providing her proper medical screening, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
"She was brutalized and she needed help," said Adante Pointer of the law firm, Lawyers for the People in Oakland. He questioned why the deputies didn't deescalate the situation instead of "choke-slamming" Malia Ashad, a mother of two, in a hospital bed.
Ashad did not speak at a news conference, but her mother, Ramona Bishop, did.
"My daughter is a fighter," Bishop said.
As the lawsuit spelled out, Ashad was taken to Kaiser San Leandro Medical Center on Aug. 9, 2022, for evaluation of head injuries inflicted upon her at the Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward, where she was dealing with what her lawyers described as a "private family matter."
Ashad’s initial injuries were caused by a woman who attacked her and repeatedly struck her in the head with a cell phone at the Hayward courthouse, according to the lawsuit.
The law firm also provided an edited and narrated 2-minute video clip to show snippets of what they say occurred.
Instead of arresting the alleged aggressor in the situation, sheriff’s deputies struck Ashad twice in her head, causing her to fall and hit her head on a table, seize and temporarily lose consciousness, according to body camera video and the lawsuit.
The on-duty ER physician determined that Ashad required a CT scan to rule out a severe brain injury, and ordered her to change into a paper gown, the lawsuit alleges.
Malia Ashad (left) and attorney Adante Pointer unveil a civil rights lawsuit against Alameda County sheriff's deputies. Feb. 1, 2024
However, sheriff’s deputies instead told emergency department personnel that Ashad did not need a CT scan and declared that she "was going to jail," according to the conversation captured on the body camera.
They insisted she did not need to be provided a gown and that her insistence on being provided one should be treated as a refusal of medical treatment.
Despite previously ordering Ashad to be placed in a paper gown, the ER physician pivoted and followed the sheriff’s deputies’ lead, the lawsuit states.
When Ashad, who was handcuffed to the hospital bed, continued to request a paper gown and the CT scan, the deputies punched her, grabbed her by the throat and slammed her onto the hospital bed causing her to lose consciousness twice, the lawsuit alleges.
Ultimately, Ashad was never provided a CT scan, contrary to federally mandated screening and stabilization protocol, the lawsuit states.
Instead, she was discharged to be taken to jail with debilitating head and body pain, wrist lacerations, and a boot imprint on her back, according to the lawsuit.
"First, the male deputies viciously attacked Ms. Ashad in the courthouse leaving her bloodied and concussed, then they hauled her off to the hospital where they continued their unnecessary and unreasonable attack. The level of callousness, brutality and arrogance these deputies displayed is stunning even by their standards," civil rights attorney Angel Alexander said.
Alexander, a Black woman, then got personal, saying that often Black women's pain is often overlooked, and that is what happened in this case.
Defendants named in the lawsuit include Alameda County, the sergeant and four deputies.
Civil rights attorney Treva Stewart questioned why there were five officers assigned to watch over Ashad, who was not some violent criminal. Stewart said it is a complete waste of resources, especially when there is so much real crime in the county that needs attention.
Ashad was arrested on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, which were dismissed.
In a statement, Capt. Tya Modeste said in part, "The released clips are a limited and skewed depiction of the incident and do not represent the totality of what occurred. Beyond stating that the complainant received appropriate medical treatment during that incident, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office must reserve further comment on a lawsuit for which we have not received service."
To see the press conference, click here.
Malia Ashad at San Leandro Kaiser in 2022. Photo: Lawsuit
Alameda County sheriff's deputies handcuff Malia Ashad. Photo: lawsuit