Man accuses deputies of choking him for smiling in mug shot

CREDIT: KPRC

HARRIS CO., TX (KPRC)–The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is being sued after a man accused several deputies of choking him last year because he refused to stop smiling in his mug shot picture, according to court documents.

Christopher Johnson, 38, was riding his motorcycle home July 25 when Deputy G. Quellhorst pulled him over and arrested him on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to court documents.

The department was notified Thursday about the lawsuit, HSCO officials told KPRC.

Quellhorst took Johnson to the Harris County jail, where investigators said Johnson posed for 10 mug shot photos during the booking process.

Court documents said a deputy demanded Johnson stop smiling while taking the pictures.

“Man, take the picture right,” the deputy said, according to court documents.

Johnson responded, “What are you talking about? This is how I always take pictures.”

Investigators said the deputy continued to tell Johnson to stop smiling.

“Well, I’ll tell you what! If you don’t stop smiling, we gon’ make you stop smiling,” one deputy was quoted as saying.

According to court records, three officers held Johnson by the neck for about 30 seconds — making it difficult for him to breathe or smile — as a fourth jail employee snapped the picture.

After the final picture was taken, investigators said Johnson asked to be treated for pain in his neck and was told to sit down and be quiet.

The Sheriff’s Office did not release the names of the deputies accused of being involved, with the exception of the arresting officer, Quellhorst.

HSCO officials released a statement Thursday night saying, “It is (common) for detention personnel to assist impaired or uncooperative detainees while taking booking photographs. An initial review of the photograph in question appears to be consistent with proper procedures for assisting an impaired detainee in order to obtain a photograph.”

HSCO said it has no policy or procedure that prohibits smiling during the booking process.

HSCO officials also point out that Johnson had been previously processed at the jail without any incident. In the past, HSCO reports Johnson has been arrested for DWI, armed aggravated assault, driving with a suspended liscense, failure to maintain financial responsibility and failure to ID.

“At this time, evidence suggests that (Johnson)’s pleading does not hold merit,” HSCO officials said in the release.

Johnson has requested a trial by jury in this case.

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