A trans man is suing two Houston Police officers as well as the city after they hurled abuse at him during an arrest.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Kris Smith said police officers taunted him for ‘not being a real man’ and barraged him with insults.
He is now suing the arresting officers as well as the city of Houston for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.
If successful, the suit could see the accused pay up to $1 million (€910,900, £815,610) in damages.
Smith said the unwarranted arrest was the worst part, rather than the transphobic abuse.
‘That’s a severe bullying technique that they use and they think they can get away with it because it’s just conversation,’ Smith told the Chronicle.
‘They think it’s OK, and it’s not OK. It’s bullying, and no one deserves that.’
The case started in December 2015, outside a Burger King in the city’s Montrose neighborhood.
After leaving his girlfriend’s house, Smith says he took a call about a job and walked around, ending up behind the restaurant.
During the call, he says he noticed a police car pull up in front of another man who sat in the corner of a parking lot.
When he tried to walk away, Smith told the Chronicle the officer beckoned him over and, after asking him to turn around, handcuffed him ‘for trespassing charges’.
According to the officers, they had been called by a Burger King manager about a trespassing complaint.
Smith claims he was neither approached by anyone during the 15-minute phone call, nor was he on the property, but outside a small wall around it.
Both Smith and the other man were taken by police, but things took a turn for the worse after the other guy was dropped off at a downtown jail.
Smith said when he told the officers he was transgender and would likely need to go to a women’s prison over safety issues, the officers allegedly insulted him.
‘They told me they don’t care if I [don’t] have a penis,’ he told the Chronicle.
‘They’ll put me in the guys’ side anyway.’
According to the lawsuit, Smith also ended up with a bruised nose, swollen and bruised wrists and a swollen biceps because, while he was handcuffed, he did not wear a seat and the officers allegedly gave him ‘a pretty rough ride’.
In a sworn statement, police give a different account of the events. Smith reportedly called the statement ‘made-up craziness’.
They claim Smith was sitting on the curb and drinking a bear when they showed up, after Burger King manager Tiffany Ross asked him to leave after she caught him begging at the drive-through.
Lawyer U.A. Lewis, who represents Smith in the case, said it could be challenging, as the city and the officers are likely claim their immunity.