By JIMMY LAWTON
OGDENSBURG – A Lisbon Central School and SUNY Canton graduate who was shocked by a border patrol agent following a dispute at a checkpoint is seeking $2 million in damages.
In May 2015, Jessica Cooke, Ogdensburg, said she was pulled in for a secondary inspection after agents said she appeared nervous at a Waddington immigration checkpoint.
Cooke said she refused a search of her trunk and was asked to wait for a K-9 Unit to arrive. A conversation with the agents escalated and she was eventually tackled and shocked by an “electronic control device,” commonly referred to as a “taser,” after she resisted an agent who had grabbed her when she refused to comply with a request.
The incident was captured on video and went viral, sparking a wide range of public comment both in support and against Cooke’s actions. The video also raised questions about the legality of the actions taken by Cooke, as well as the agents involved.
The lawsuit claims Cooke suffered injuries to her neck, back, wrists and shoulders. It also states she suffered emotional distress, mental anxiety, humiliation, indignity and shame. The suit states Cooke was deprived of her liberty and suffered an invasion of privacy.
The lawsuit names the United States of America as the defendant.
It also names border agents Chad Kenna and Nicole Martin, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Both agents can be seen in the video recorded by Cooke.
According to the suit, Cooke was driving on Route 37 on May 7 when she was stopped at a U.S. Custom’s and Border checkpoint.
Agent Nicole Martin allegedly approached Cooke’s vehicle and demanded Cooke to present her with identification.
Cooke provided her identification and was then told to exit her vehicle and open her trunk.
At that time, court documents say Martin told Cooke her dog was cute, then stated that Cooke seemed nervous.
Cooke refused to let the agent search her vehicle because there was not probable cause.
According to the court documents, Martin then asked Cooke to pull her vehicle over to the side of the road. Cooke complied with the request and exited her vehicle. Cooke then inquired as to the probable cause for which the agents had her pull over so they could search the vehicle. Martin allegedly told Cooke she was awaiting the arrival of a canine officer to search the vehicle.
Agent Chad Kenna then arrived on the scene. At that point, Cooke asked Kenna why she was subjected to a traffic stop. Documents say Kenna became upset and was approximately 3 to 4 inches away from Cooke’s face making threats that frightened her and caused emotional distress.
Lawsuit documents state that agent Kenna then “violently and forcibly” assaulted Cooke by shoving her into the side of a her car and throwing her to the ground without “just cause or reason and/or legal authority.”
“As the Plaintiff was being forcibly held on the ground by agent Kenna and agent Martin, without just cause and upon information and belief, contrary to the policies and procedures of the Customs and Border Patrol, agent Martin violently and repeatedly tased the Plaintiff with her taser gun causing Plaintiff to suffer physical and emotional pain and injury.”
Cooke was then handcuffed and placed in a patrol car to await the canine unit. At this point, Cooke had not been charged with any crime or read her Miranda rights, documents say.
A search of Cooke’s vehicle revealed no illegal substances, contraband, drugs or illegal items. Cooke was then transported to the Customs and Border Patrol headquarters in Ogdensburg and was “forced against her” will to be placed in a holding cell for four hours and was then released.
Cooke was never charged with a crime, or traffic violation, following her release, court documents say.
The U.S. Department of Justice investigated the actions of Kenna and Martin and announced in December 2015 that it would not file criminal charges against the agents.