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Sherman police officers accused of using excessive force in death of detainee

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SHERMAN -- Several Sherman police officers are facing civil charges in connection with the death of a detainee.

The lawsuit points out what it says is a pattern of abusive conduct at the Sherman Police Department. It says two officers had a direct involvement in the actions that led to the woman's death but it says five officers were involved in an effort to cover it up.

The lawsuit - filed Sunday - names Linda Surratt as the plaintiff.

Five Sherman police officers and the City of Sherman are named as defendants.

Linda is the sister of Lesa Surratt, whom the case involves.

The lawsuit claims two of the officers used excessive and deadly force when Surratt was pulled over for a purported traffic violation in August.


Surratt was arrested and placed in the back of a patrol car during the stop.

At one point, the lawsuit says she swallowed a small amount of cocaine.

When one officer realized that, the suit claims the officer climbed into the back seat and began "striking Surratt with open fist and then his flashlight to get her to spit up the cocaine. When this was not successful, Doe 2 [the officer] placed the flashlight diagonally against the right side of Surratt's neck and pushed down, choking Surratt with the flashlight until she lost consciousness."

The lawsuit says Surratt laid on the ground "20 minutes or more convulsing in seizures before any of Defendants called for an EMT."

Surratt was taken to Texas Health Presbyterian-WNJ Hospital in Sherman where according to the lawsuit, she was found to be brain dead.

She was taken off life support September 2, the suit says.

The lawsuit says Surratt's autopsy determined she died from asphyxiation.

The Sherman Police Department said it was unable to comment on pending litigation.

In a statement, Sherman City Attorney Brandon Shelby said:

"
The City of Sherman was served in a lawsuit this morning alleging excessive force by the members of the Sherman Police Department during a traffic stop in August of 2013. 

On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, while in police custody, Lesa Surratt was able to free herself from handcuffs and retrieve a baggie of a controlled substance (identified as cocaine in the lawsuit) from her person.  She attempted to swallow the baggie, became asphyxiated and lost consciousness.  She received prompt medical attention, but later died from her injuries. 

The actions of the Sherman Police Officers were investigated by the Texas Rangers and the findings were presented to a Grand Jury.  No charges were filed and the officers were cleared."

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory damages.