In 2019, Officers Justin Coleman, Jarvis Smith, and Kierre Sellers with the Cleveland Police Department responded to an incident at a Wal-Mart store in Bolivar County. When the officers arrived, Marilyn Bradford told them that the store would not return her bank card. An officer then retrieved Bradford’s bank card and returned it to her, which seemingly calmed her down.
The store manager then said that Bradford previously had been banned from the store which caused Bradford to become upset again. Officers can be heard (officers body cam video) telling Bradford to calm down, and Bradford responded that the officers did not need to raise their voices at her.
Then the officers explained to Bradford that she could leave the premises or go to jail. On the video footage, Bradford can be seen standing up and gesturing while yelling at the officers. At least one officer told Bradford to leave the premises again.
Then Bradford yelled, “I bet you I be back up in here.” When an officer asked Bradford if she wanted to go to jail, she yelled, “I ain’t going to no jail.” An officer can be heard telling Bradford to leave the premises yet again.
Then Bradford yelled, “I bet y’all I be back.” When an officer told Bradford that she would go to jail, Bradford shouted, “So?” Finally, before her arrest, Bradford can be heard yelling something like, “I’ll come back to the m[*********]ing store.”
According to Coleman, Bradford kept saying she was going to leave but she would come back to the store. Coleman testified that when he told Bradford to leave, she responded, “I bet I come back to this m[*********]er.”
According to Coleman, Bradford was cursing and looking back at the officers, and that is when he decided enough was enough. Coleman testified that Bradford hit him in the chest as he reached out to grab her, so he placed her on the ground to gain control of her.
While the officers attempted to put Bradford in the patrol vehicle, she continued to curse at them. According to Smith, Bradford attempted to spit on them and kicked Coleman in the groin.
When they arrived at the police department, the video footage appears to show Coleman getting out of his patrol vehicle. As he gets out of the vehicle, Coleman can be heard making a grunting sound. Then he can be heard telling another officer that Bradford got him in the genitals.
As Bradford was removed from the patrol vehicle, she bum rushed the officers. Coleman testified that as he attempted to cuff one of Bradford’s ankles to a bench in the booking area, she bit him. Coleman acknowledged that he was wearing a jacket and that the bite did not break the skin.
Investigator Joe Smith with the Cleveland Police Department testified that Bradford was charged with simple assault on a law enforcement officer, and he believed that she was charged with disturbing the peace. However, after reviewing one of the officers’ affidavits, Smith acknowledged that the affidavit charged Bradford with disorderly conduct, failure to comply.
She was convicted of simple assault on Coleman and sentenced to two years (there was a mistrial as to simple assault on Smith and Sellers – thus the facts above focus on Coleman). On appeal, she argued the arrest was unlawful and that Coleman did not sustain an injury. MCOA affirms.
A. Disorderly Conduct
Although Smith initially testified that he believed Bradford was arrested for and charged with disturbing the peace, he acknowledged that at least one of the officers’ affidavits charged Bradford with disorderly conduct, failure to comply.
According to Smith, at least one of the affidavits stated that Bradford did willfully, unlawfully with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, refuse to comply with or obey the request of Coleman, a law enforcement officer.
A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if that person, with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, or under such circumstances as may lead to a breach of the peace, or which may cause or occasion a breach of the peace, fails or refuses to promptly comply with or obey a request, command, or order of a law enforcement officer, having the authority to then and there arrest any person for a violation of the law, to: (i) Act or do or refrain from acting or doing as ordered, requested or commanded by said officer to avoid any breach of the peace at or near the place of issuance of such order, request or command. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-35-7(1)(i) (Rev. 2014).
In Odem, the defendant was arrested for disorderly conduct after he became agitated about the process for recovering his impounded vehicle from the sheriff’s office. This court examined Odem’s language and physical acts to determine whether he had an intent to breach the peace and whether he did in fact breach the peace.
We found that Odem’s arrest was not solely based on his spoken words but also included consideration of his conduct, behavior, and demeanor. Specifically, Odem was agitated, loud, irate, and was gesturing combatively. Additionally, Odem’s conduct indicated that he did not intend to follow the procedures to get his vehicle; rather, his behavior indicated that he was intent on creating a scene so that the officer would not enforce the procedures and allow him to get his vehicle back immediately.
In Sendelweck, the defendant was arrested for disorderly conduct based on his actions, behavior, and offensive language. In determining that Sendelweck was lawfully arrested, this court noted that the officer believed Sendelweck’s behavior was threatening and combative in a public place; the officer asked him to step back and calm down, but he failed to comply and instead continued to yell and curse (although the arrest was lawful, the affidavit was defective as it only spoke of Sendelbeck’s words and not his actions).
This case is distinguishable from Mastin who was arrested for his spoken words, loud tone, and his refusal to take a ticket from a law enforcement officer. In reversing Mastin’s conviction for disorderly conduct, we noted that while Mastin initially refused the ticket, he ultimately took it, and any order or command to take the ticket was not issued for the purpose of avoiding a breach of the peace. Additionally, there was no evidence that the officer ever ordered Mastin to get back in his vehicle and leave the scene and that Mastin refused.
In this case, Bradford not only cursed at the law enforcement officers, but she also acted in an agitated, loud, irate, and threatening manner. Instead of simply leaving the premises on the numerous times she was told to do so, Bradford continued to yell and curse at the officers.
It is clear from the testimony as well as the body camera footage that Bradford was told to leave the store for the purpose of avoiding a breach of the peace; however, Bradford’s intent was to continue to create a scene. For these reasons, we find that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to establish that Bradford was lawfully arrested.
B. Bodily injury for simple assault
Under Mississippi law, a person is guilty of simple assault if he attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-7(1)(a) (Supp. 2016). Assault upon a law enforcement officer acting within the scope of his duty at the time of the assault is an aggravating circumstance. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-7(14)(a).
This court held in Cleveland that if the indictment alleges an actual bodily injury to the victim rather than a mere attempt to do bodily injury, there must be some proof that the victim suffered some actual injury, or at least some physical pain as a result of the attack.
Coleman testified that Bradford hit him in the chest, and another officer testified that Bradford kicked Coleman in the groin. Coleman did not testify about any actual injury or physical pain as a result of being hit or kicked, but the video footage appears to show Coleman getting out of his patrol vehicle at the police department; as he gets out of the vehicle, Coleman can be heard making a grunting sound.
He can then be heard telling another officer that Bradford got him in the genitals. Additionally, Coleman testified that as he attempted to cuff one of Bradford’s ankles to a bench in the booking area, she bit him. He testified that the bite pinched his arm, and he grabbed Bradford’s head to prevent her from biting him again. He also testified that he was examined by a doctor. This was sufficient for a simple assault charge.