A woman is now looking at $205,000 in settlement money after a police officer pulled out her tampon while searching for drugs.
On Aug. 8, 2016, Natalie D. Simms was sitting on the curb of a dimly lit side street in San Antonio, Texas. Simms was on the phone while waiting on her boyfriend when police officers arrived, according to Simms’ lawsuit. Police had reportedly received several complaints about drug activity in the area and began investigating the area. The Washington Post reports that a detective saw Simms, who has a criminal record and another woman walk under a highway underpass where they appeared to be selling drugs, according to the Express-News.
The police first got consent to search Simms’ car, which she gave “knowing that she had done nothing wrong,” court documents said. During the search, a female officer was called to the scene to search the woman. #MaraWilson, the female the officer, arrived to the scene and despite not having a warrant, went on to ask Simms if she could remove her shorts. Wilson made small talk with Simms and eventually asked her to spread her legs, according to the dash-cam transcript. Wilson asked Simms if she had anything in her underwear before she reached down her pants. Simms told her she didn’t and let her know that she was on her period. Wilson, ready with a flashlight, told Simms she would only look, not touch, and “pulled open Natalie’s pants and underwear,” the complaint said. Five other officers, all of whom were men, were nearby, the suit alleged.
That’s when Wilson noticed the tampon string and pulled it, according to the suit. “Officer Wilson did so knowing that Natalie was on her period, and also knowing and seeing that Natalie had a menstrual pad in place,” the lawyers wrote. Still, Wilson repeatedly asked Simms to confirm she was using a tampon. “It’s full of blood, right?” Simms said. “Why would you do that?” “I don’t know,” Wilson responded. “It looked like it had stuff in there.” Wilson ignored Simms, saying she didn’t have anything, but she continued to search, at one point stating, “You’re very hairy,” the suit alleged. Wilson then told Simms to turn around and spread her legs again. “Officer Wilson had violated Natalie vaginally, and now it appeared that she might violate Natalie anally,” the suit said. “She was doing so without a warrant, with no medical personnel present, and on a public street in view of several people as well as those passing by.”
Simms requested that she be taken to the station, but she was denied. There is no information on whether or not an anal cavity search was done, but she was eventually released and left in her car. “Even though Natalie was allowed to leave the scene, a part of her dignity and self-worth was left behind,” the lawsuit said. According to the complaint, officials said Wilson “did nothing that violated any of the City’s procedures by searching Ms. Simms in the manner she searched her.” Instead of facing serious punishment such as termination, a notation was made in Wilson’s personnel file, the lawsuit alleged.
Simms filed a lawsuit against the city of San Antonio, Texas and the now-retired San Antonio Police Department detective Mara Wilson last year in the Western District of Texas for unspecified damages, alleging that the act was a “blatant violation” of her constitutional rights, and resulted “in significant and lasting harm.” The city is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed settlement that would award Simms $205,000, according to an official agenda. Simms and her lawyer have agreed to the sum, the San Antonio Express-News reported, citing a city memo.