La. Woman Admits to Attempting to Leave the Booking Room

A woman says officer beat her after he turned off camera.

February 19, 2009, 6:26 AM

Feb. 20, 2008 — -- A handcuffed Louisiana woman who emerged from a police holding room with two black eyes and broken teeth said that after the arresting officer turned off a monitoring camera he slammed her against a wooden door and then against a metal locker.

Angela Garbarino also admitted that while the camera was off she tried to leave the room despite orders from Officer Wylie Willis to stay put.

Garbarino spoke to "Good Morning America" for the first time about what happened during those minutes that the camera was turned off.

"It was very painful," she said. "Officer Willis came over to me to the chair. He threw me against the door. He slammed me against that black file locker [seen in the video]."

Garbarino, who described the incident as "a nightmare," contends that Willis physically abused her, but Willis' attorney said she was inebriated and disorderly.

"Although unfortunate, her injuries were caused by her own erratic behavior and her failure to comply with lawful, reasonable and standard instructions for persons under arrest," said Willis' attorney Eron Brainard in a statement to ABC News. "Officer Willis was presented with an intoxicated and extremely belligerent female criminal suspect who had just been arrested by other officers for the highly dangerous offenses of Driving While Intoxicated."

Though police and Garbarino agree the situation was uneasy, Garbarino said she was not so drunk she couldn't recall the incident.

"I remember everything," she said. "I wanted to make a phone call and he wouldn't let me. I repeatedly asked him why he wouldn't let me make a phone call. He just ignored me."

When pressed on whether she tried to leave the room, Garbarino paused and answered, "Yes."

Garbarino said her injuries included two black eyes, two broken teeth and bruises on her arm and shoulder.

Her attorney Ron Miciotto said his client also suffered a broken nose and a severe cut on her forehead. He added that once Willis turned the video camera back on, Garbarino could be seen lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Viewers can see him checking his hands to see whether blood is on them, Miciotto said.

"On three occasions he looks down on his hands to see if there is any blood on his hands," Miciotto said.

Authorities fired Willis after the incident and he is contesting his dismissal. Willis may be bolstered by the support of his police union.

"What we find to be unreasonable was the behavior of the suspect from the point she came in the room," said Shreveport police union president Michael Carter.

Willis and his attorney's version of the account don't mesh with Garbarino's story of what happened.

"He followed training and standard procedures, but this suspect was out of control and repeatedly tried to leave the testing area, which forced him to have to restrain her. After her refusal to take the breath test, Officer Willis turned off and saved the videotape, in accordance with normal practice. The suspect again tried to leave the room. In the process of stopping her, she fell and injured herself," the statement continued.

What makes Garbarino's injuries and situation more curious is the fact that Shreveport police Willis turned off the interrogation-room camera after he and Garbarino exchanged words.

"The video can be turned off or on at any time," Miciotto said of rules governing the recording of police bookings.

However, with a woman, "you would think you want the video running the whole time so that the whole story is told," he added.

The video shows Garbarino requesting a phone call.

"You're not going to let me call anybody?" she asks on the video. "I have a right to call somebody right now and I know that. Is this on the record?"

The footage documents Wiley attempting to read Garbarino her rights, but he runs out of patience and things get tense. He seems to forcefully put her in a chair.

"Don't touch me again. Get away from me," Garbarino says after a scream.

Then, Wiley walks over to the police camera recording the booking and turns it off. What happens next is a mystery, but when the video resumes the handcuffed Garbarino is sprawled on the floor and silently lying in a pool of her blood.

Another officer arrives and takes a cursory look before Garbarino is wheeled out on a stretcher. In addition to her bruised face, Garbarino's injuries also included two broken teeth.

While Garbarino says Wiley physically abused her, his attorney said what he did was "in accordance with normal practice."

"The suspect again tried to leave the room. In the process of stopping her, she fell and injured herself," said Eron Brainard in a statement to ABC News.

Wiley is appealing his dismissal and police have not brought charges against him because no one knows for sure what occurred.

Meanwhile, Garbarino faces reckless driving, hit-and-run and DWI charges. She has denied the charges.

A Shreveport police spokesperson said no specific law about the phone call exists, but typically suspects are processed, booked and then allowed to make a phone call.

But at least one expert said at the very least Wiley should have called for a female backup.

"I think we have a situation where the arrested person is refusing to cooperate and the police officer apparently overreacted," said Tulane University forensic criminologist Wade S. Schindler.

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