Biloxi police accused a teen girl of being a ‘heroin addict’ in DUI arrest. She was sober.
A Biloxi teen lost her trust in law enforcement on July 27, 2018, when she said Biloxi police officers sexually harassed her and arrested her without cause for driving under the influence of an illegal substance.
When the girl’s mother, now a Mississippi school superintendent in another city, arrived at the Biloxi Police Department to pick up her daughter, arresting officer Nathan Corr told her he suspected the teen was a “heroin addict,” according to records in a lawsuit filed by the girl’s mother on behalf of the teen. Pascagoula attorney Monte Tynes, represented the family.
After the girl left the Police Department with her mom, she insisted on going directly to Merit Health hospital in Biloxi to have blood drawn to prove she was not under the influence of a drug, alcohol or any other substance.
The tests confirmed what the girl had tried to tell Officer Corr after he said she failed the sobriety tests, arrested her for the DUI offense and cited her for driving with an expired license.
The girl’s mother told the Sun Herald early on that the then 17-year-old wanted her to file the lawsuit in hopes of preventing other girls from suffering the same treatment.
Over three years later, the city of Biloxi has agreed to pay $40,000 to settle the lawsuit. The city did not admit guilt as part of its settlement agreement.
A ‘traumatic experience’ with Biloxi police
“This officer held my life in his hands at that moment,” the girl said in an affidavit. “I was captain of the cheer squad and the show choir at that time. I was student body vice president and a top 10 finalist in the Miss Mississippi Corporation. His actions could have ruined my life, my college prospects, my chances at getting in a sorority and my chances of getting into medical school.”
The girl said she learned a lot of lessons as a result of “this traumatic experience.”
“But one stuck out to me, and that is to always fight for yourself when no one else does,” she said. “On that night, I was the only person who believed in me. I stood alone in that parking lot, surrounded by those men.
“If I would not have been strong enough to insist on proving my innocence, my story would have ended very differently. Instead, I would be standing here today with a charge that I was not guilty of and definitely did not deserve.“
The teen said she wanted to speak out “‘to be a voice for other females who have also been violated and falsely accused.”
“I am not the only one,” she said. “This can happen to anyone.”
Sobriety tests but no portable breathalyzer
The traffic stop happened shortly after the teenager got a call from her older sister, who was with friends at a casino and needed a ride home.
Officer Corr, then in field training under the direction of field training supervisor Officer Brandon Franovich, pulled the girl over for allegedly running a red light when she turned east on Pass Road from Popp’s Ferry Road.
Corr was driving the patrol car, and Franovich was with him.
After the stop, the then-teenager said the arresting officer, Corr, ordered her to get out of the car and stand behind it. By then, two other male Biloxi police officers were on the scene.
The girl said she put her arms across her chest to cover herself because she had left home without putting a bra on because she never intended to get out of the car.
“The officers stared at her and ordered her to put her hands down at her side in a blatant attempt to look at her breasts,” the lawsuit says. It further alleges that the officers “repeatedly ordered the (teenager) to move her arms and uncover her breasts and stand in the open, and made inappropriate sexual remarks.”
The girl said the officer made several accusations “while the others just stood back and continued to watch my every move.”
“Every response I gave, the officer twisted my words in an attempt to trick me into saying something he wanted to hear,’ the girl said.
When the officers asked if she minded doing some field sobriety tests, she said she “happily obliged” because she knew she was not impaired or under the influence of anything.
After the officer told her she had failed the first field sobriety test, she was “puzzled” but agreed to do another field test to prove her innocence.
The officer told her she failed the test again but then declined the girl’s request to be tested with a portable breathalyzer to confirm her sobriety.
Before handcuffing the girl, she said, the arresting officer “stared at me with the most terrifying look on his face and said, ’’I am looking in your eyes and can see to your soul.’”
The officer arrested the teenager for driving under the influence of a substance other than alcohol, driving with an expired license, an expired tag and a traffic violation.
Officers, city deny wrongdoing
Corr, Franovich and the city denied sexual harassment and said the girl was ordered to put her hands by her side only for the field sobriety tests.
In sworn statements, both Corr and Franovich noted, in part, they “did not “engage in any kind of physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature.”
.In addition, Franovich said, any observations he made of the girl during the stop “was for law enforcement purposes.”
“As a police officer, I was trained to observe an arrestee during detention, including during field sobriety tests, for officer and arrestee safety as well as to evaluate probable cause,” Corr said, and Franovich backed him up.
“The instructions .... were not given in any attempt to look at (the girl’s) breasts. I did not make any sexual advances or sexual remarks ... At no time did I order (the girl) to uncover her breasts and stand in the open. At no time during the incident did I engage in any kind of physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature,” Corr said.
The Sun Herald reached out to the communications department in the city of Biloxi to ask to speak to Police Chief John Miller in response to the settlement.
Since 2020, a new procedure put in place by Mayor FoFo Gilich requires media to send an email to a specific email address in the communications department to request to speak to a city official. The request must include basic information on the subject matter to pass on to the official prior to any interview.
Miller declined to comment on the case.
Charges dropped, and lasting memories
After weeks of “sleepless nights, anxiety, stress and tears,” the girl learned the prosecutor was dismissing the charges and erasing any record of them through an expungement order.
She said she also spoke to Police Chief John Miller after he watched video of the stop and reportedly “found the conduct of the officer was completely inappropriate.”
Despite the charges being dropped, the girl said what happened that morning will forever be a frightening memory.
“I am still affected by it every day,” the girl said. “I cannot forget the blue lights. I cannot forget the sounds of handcuffs behind me. I cannot forget the feeling I had sitting handcuffed in the back of the police car. I cannot forget the way those ... officers looked at me.”
The lawsuit, moved from state court to federal court, accused the officers and the city of false arrest and imprisonment, sexual harassment, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“She handled the situation better than most adults that I’ve met in my 17 years of practicing law,” Attorney Tynes said. “I am proud that I got to represent her. I think she will do amazing things in the future.”