Realiti Courson Sues Deputies She Says Fired Rubber Bullets at Her During Panic Attack

Realiti Courson, who is a former inmate at a Kansas jail, filed a lawsuit against deputies she claimed fired rubber bullets and a flash grenade at her while she was experiencing a panic attack.

The incident took place while Courson, 25, was in an isolation cell in 2019. She filed the lawsuit last month by proxy of an attorney against former Sheriff Randy Henderson, Shawn McClay, a captain at the jail, jail deputies Jake Harrison, Cody Blake, and Kaitlyn Hazell, as well as the Reno County Commission.

The lawsuit claims that because Courson is Black, the deputies targeted her. It also alleged that the Reno County sheriff's department convinced the local prosecutor to charge Courson with three felonies after her attorney contacted the department regarding the incident.

Reno County Undersheriff Shawn McHaley told The Wichita Eagle that the department denied comment on an ongoing lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the county did not return messages asking for comments from The Wichita Eagle on Friday.

According to the lawsuit, the deputies said they fired the flash grenade and rubber bullets due to Courson being "non-compliant."

"The amount of force used in this case was grossly disproportionate to the need to apply force or maintain discipline," the lawsuit says, mentioning that Courson was alone in a cell and was no danger to anyone.

"Caged dogs are afforded better treatment than Realiti was given when she was shocked and shot while caged in a cell," the lawsuit says.

Courson was acquitted of her charges in March.

Realiti Courson, Lawsuit, Reno Police, Abuse
Realiti Courson wishes for a jury trial and punitive damages following what she said was rough treatment in jail, but the lawsuit does not specify an amount. In this photo, Reno Police stand watch as flames from the Pinehaven Fire burn out of control within a residential neighborhood on Nov. 17, 2020 in Reno, Nevada. Trevor Bexon/Getty Images

According to the lawsuit, Courson was serving a 30-day sentence in August 2019 for violating her parole when she was falsely accused of bullying other inmates and going into other inmates' cells without permission.

Later that night, deputies told her she was being taken to an isolation cell but gave differing reasons.

Courson, who had a history of anxiety and mental health challenges, hit and kicked her cell door, rang the buzzer and covered the surveillance camera twice while inside the cell. The lawsuit said she was having a panic attack, but deputies said she was throwing a "temper tantrum."

When Courson refused deputies' orders to "cuff up" inside the cell, Harrison fired a flashbang round into her cell, which gave off a "deafening sound" and a "blinding flash," according to the lawsuit, causing Courson more fear and panic.

Harrison yelled at Courson, who couldn't hear him, then fired nonlethal ammunition, also known as rubber or plastic bullets, according to the lawsuit. Courson suffered numerous scars and bruises from the bullets and required surgery.

The lawsuit claims the jail had a history of disregarding inmates' rights and subjected them to time in isolation cells, beatings and the use of unnecessary physical restraints, but "The punishment of sound bombs and shotgun shootings is a punishment reserved for African American detainees."

Shortly after the sheriff's department was contacted by Courson's attorney, the department sent an affidavit to the district attorney's office claiming Courson had threatened a deputy and another inmate and interfered with law enforcement.

"The defense argued that these charges were based on fiction designed to protect the Sheriff from this anticipated civil suit. The criminal court agreed," the suit says.

It alleges Henderson, who retired as sheriff in December 2019, did nothing to stop the poor treatment of inmates and the lack of training and supervision provided by the former sheriff and McClay led to the "sadistic" assault on Courson.

Courson is seeking a jury trial and punitive damages but the lawsuit does not name a specific amount.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.