March 14, 2014

A Las Vegas woman is suing the Metropolitan Police Department saying she was literally given the "third degree."
This photo was taken shortly after her leg was burned.
Local artist Cristina Paulos received third degree burns during an encounter with police after a traffic accident.

It all began on a hot August day when a car crash and a woman's arrest led to severe burns from scorching pavement and a lawsuit alleging excessive force.

"So, this is two years of healing. So, it's got a lot better, it used to look a lot worse," Paulos said.

The images of the woman's injuries are graphic. She fears she will forever bear the scars from an encounter with Metro Police in Aug. 2011.

"I was held down by police and security at the Palms property. And from that, I got third degree burns on my legs," Paulos said.

She admits driving her car into the exit lanes of the Palms hotel and hitting two cars in the process. But she was not drunk or high on drugs. She was later diagnosed as having a mental disorder that she now manages with medication. But her behavior was definitely erratic following the crash. She first ran from the scene then returned and climbed into one the car's she hit.

Casino surveillance video shows her getting out of that car and coming face-to-face with a Metro officer, who, after a brief interaction, takes her to the pavement. The high temperature that day was 104 degrees, but the asphalt was certainly much hotter.

"I literally thought I was in hell, what I believed was hell at the time because my flesh was burning. My skin was burning," she said.

The I-Team wanted to see how long Paulos' body was in contact with the asphalt. A clock was started the moment she came into contact with the pavement and it shows she was on the hot ground for more than three minutes.

"People have been taken down but brought quickly up. That didn't happen here. She was held down and casino security officers helped out and assisted the police officer to hold her down and that's why you have the serious burns on her legs," said Cal Potter, Paulos' attorney.

"And I was screaming. It wasn't like I wasn't screaming. I was screaming, so they were very aware that I was in pain," Paulos said.

She has had skin grafts and her medical bills have risen above the $100,000 mark. She hopes to get those bills paid through her lawsuit. She says she also hopes the suit will make police officers more aware of what can happen when someone is taken into custody on a very hot day.

"They just have to be more aware." she said. "There are safer ways to restrain someone so they don't walk away with burns for the rest of their life.

There are clearly other sides to this story and the lawsuit filed by Paulos represents only her version of events. Metro Police will not comment on pending lawsuits.

The Palms hotel also declined comment citing the same kind of policy. Metro's lawyers filed a written response to the suit denying allegations of wrongdoing and saying that any injuries sustained by Paulos were the result of her own negligence and/or actions.


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