Mom Sues After Toddler Suffers ‘Disfiguring Burns’ At Police Station

The mother of an Alabama toddler has filed a civil rights lawsuit against authorities in Tennessee, alleging, among other things, that her child was severely injured while in police custody and no one bothered to explain to her what happened.

In the suit, which was filed in federal court, 34-year-old Tracy Marie Garth said her young son “suffered disfiguring burns to his mouth, chin and chest,” after police arrested her for traffic violations last year, The Tennessean reports. 

The suit, a copy of which was obtained by HuffPost, states that Garth was not notified of her child’s injuries until her release from jail. She had spent roughly two weeks behind bars.

“To date, no reasonable explanation of [the child’s] burns has been given,” the complaint says. Garth filed the lawsuit in April, though it gained media attention this week.

On Monday, City of Franklin spokeswoman Milissa Reierson told the Tennessean that Garth’s son was burned by hot water when he pushed a button on a dispenser in the police department’s break room.

“Though our legal counsel has advised us not to discuss the particulars of this case outside of the courtroom, we hope that the public recognizes that there are two sides to every story,” Reierson said.

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Contacted by HuffPost on Wednesday, Garth directed questions to her attorney, Janet M. Okoye. The attorney did not respond to a call or email seeking comment.

The lawsuit alleges Garth’s ordeal began on April 25, 2016, when she and her two children – a 2-year-old and an 8-month-old – were traveling from their home in Decatur, Alabama, to go shopping in Nashville, Tennessee.

Garth was roughly 20 miles outside of Nashville when she stopped for gas and was approached by an officer with the Franklin Police Department. The officer accused Garth of speeding, passing a dump truck, striking a traffic cone and failing to stop for law enforcement, the suit claims.

Authorities booked Garth into the Williamson County Jail and took her two children to the Franklin Police Department. Officers there contacted the Tennessee Division of Children’s Services, also named in the lawsuit, and requested a DCS employee pick up the children.

When the DCS employee arrived, she discovered the 2-year-old’s burns. The worker took custody of the younger child while officers transported the older boy to a hospital for treatment, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint further alleges that authorities at the jail, who are named in the lawsuit, committed a number of civil rights violations against Garth, including denying her access to a phone and stripping her naked in front of male guards.

Because she was unable to make a call and was denied access to her purse, Garth was unable to quickly post bond, the lawsuit alleges. As a result, her children were placed in foster care and she lost her bank job, which she had for more than a decade, the lawsuit says.

The complaint claims Garth, who reportedly has no prior criminal record, had her First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights violated.

The lawsuit seeks $2.5 million in damages and names the City of Franklin, Williamson County, child services workers and multiple law enforcement officers.

Garth is still fighting to regain custody of her children, the lawsuit states. She has not yet gone to court to face her criminal charges. Her next court date is scheduled for Sept. 21.

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