WASHINGTON – After discovering his 12-year-old son had wandered off during a Father’s Day outing at a suburban Six Flags amusement park, Nicholaus Mims launched into parental panic.
He bolted from his beach chair in the water park area to search for his son among the crowds scattered across 500 acres before finally finding the boy safe playing arcade games.
But the father’s relief was short-lived. Within minutes of spotting his son, Mims said, an employee called security on Mims and told him he was violating park rules by not wearing a shirt and needed to leave.
Mims explained he had run shirtless from the water park to find his missing child and was on the phone to meet his wife who had his shirt in her bag. What followed, according to Mims, was a beating by Six Flags guards who pinned him and pushed his head into the concrete, bloodied, just outside the park as he headed for his car. Now, Mims is suing Six Flags for $10 million.
Mims and his lawyers contend the call for security from a white female park employee was racially motivated and that Mims, who is black, was assaulted and falsely imprisoned.
“All they had to do is just let me keep walking,” Mims said. “They just wanted to beat me up.”
Six Flags America spokeswoman Denise Stokes declined to comment because the matter is part of pending litigation but said that “we believe this lawsuit has no merit.”
Six Flags denied all of Mims’s claims in a court documents filed in August and asked for details to back up his accusations. The filings state Six Flags had “probable cause” to act as it did out of defense for itself and others at the park.
“Six Flags stands by its answer and intends to vigorously defend this matter in court,” said David Skomba, an attorney for the park.
Mims filed the lawsuit in Prince George’s County Circuit Court in July, about six weeks after his June 17 visit to the park in Woordmore about 19 miles west of here.
Mims, an optometric assistant, had planned to stay home on Father’s Day. But when his best friend called about a season pass discount at Six Flags that weekend, both men decided to take their families.
After spending about $400 on passes, Mims started his holiday visit at Hurricane Harbor. He took off his shirt to enjoy the sun and gave it to his wife, who stowed the family’s belongings in her bag.
About an hour later, Mims realized his 12-year-old son had disappeared.
“You don’t know what crazy people are going to do out here,” said Mims, recalling the panic of searching for his child. “Everything flashes through your mind at that time. You’re worried.”
Mims rushed out of the water park but didn’t put on his shirt. He said he was focused on finding his son, and his wife was on the other side of the park with the family’s belongings.
Mims passed several security guards during his search, all of whom told him he needed to have a shirt. He explained he was looking for his missing son, and security guards let him go along his way.
“I’m nervous, afraid and scared because I can’t find my child,” Mims said. “Not one time did any one say, ‘Is something wrong? Do you need any help?’ “
A short time later, Mims found his son playing arcade games. Relieved, Mims flagged his son over and called his wife so the family could reunite.
While he was on the phone, a woman who worked for Six Flags approached him and told him he needed to put on his shirt, according to Mims’ court claim. Mims told her he was waiting to get his shirt from his wife after their son had wandered off.
“In response, the Caucasian female employee activated her handheld radio device and called park security,” Mims’s lawsuit states.
Mims’s account goes on to say two security guards arrived and told Mims he had to leave. Mims again explained he was waiting for his wife but tensions flared.
“Man, I told you, I’m waiting for my wife,” Mims, in court filings, recalled telling security. “I don’t understand, I’ve spent all this money – almost $400 – to get into this park, and now you are telling me I have to leave because I don’t have a shirt on?” Mims also said he used an expletive.
“Oh, now you’re cussing?! You gotta go! You gotta go!?” Mims’s court filing asserts a security guard said as a second security guard put his hand on a can of mace strapped to his belt.
“What are you doing? Are you really about to mace me right in front of my son because I told you I don’t know what’s going on?” Mims’ claims in his lawsuit.
“You gotta go!” the guard with the mace on his hand said, according to his lawsuit.
Mims agreed to leave the park. As they moved toward the entrance, Mims said, three more guards appeared and surrounded him as he walked to his car,
Once they stepped outside the park’s gate, a guard told him he was being arrested for disorderly conduct and another guard tried to grab his arm.
Mims pulled his arm away and heard “Cuff him! He’s being resistant!” before he was slammed to the ground while his wife and sons watched, his lawsuit asserts.
Photos taken by Mims’ wife show three security officers pinning Mims with his back to the red concrete.
“In the presence of family, Plaintiff Mims was disgracefully and brutally beaten and bloodied until he was eventually wrangled into handcuffs,” states the lawsuit filed by Mims’ lawyers, Donald Huskey and Governor Jackson. Officers took him to a security office where, he said, he was cuffed to a post for 30 minutes until Prince George’s County police arrived and told park security they had to let Mims go because there was no basis for charges.
“This beatdown is unacceptable,” said Huskey, a former Baltimore city prosecutor who said that park security could have walked Mims to his wife or given him a shirt.
Mims concedes he broke park rules by not wearing a shirt and by swearing. Mims knows his temper boiled. But he doesn’t understand why security followed him out and beat him after he agreed to leave.
“I could see if I was fighting with someone or not compliant, but I was leaving,” Mims said. “I broke the rules. That’s my bad, but that doesn’t mean you need to slam my face into the ground.”
Doctors said Mims suffered a concussion. Pictures show a red knot above his right eyebrow and bruises across his shoulders and back. He’s seeing a doctor about possible nerve damage, complaining of a constant headache, problems with his vision and persistent pain in his left elbow.
Mims, the father of six, said he’s upset that his 19-year-old and 12-year-old sons witnessed his being beaten.
“My 12-year-old brings it up,” Mims said. “He asks why they did it. He was like, ‘Dad, you were leaving. They didn’t have to do that, Dad.’ “