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LAS VEGAS – A 21-year-old Los Angeles fashion designer said Thursday she's suing Las Vegas police and a uniformed officer she says smashed her face into a marble and glass table during her arrest in the lobby of a Strip casino resort.
Ariana Mason told reporters she suffered broken teeth and facial gashes that required 26 stitches after her arrest a little before 3 a.m. Aug. 16 outside 1 Oak at The Mirage.
"I feel as if the way he reacted was unnecessary. I feel he escalated the situation," Mason told a news conference outside the office of her lawyer, Brent Bryson.
Her lawsuit alleging civil rights violations and excessive force was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. It seeks at least $4 million in damages from the officer and the Police Department.
The lawsuit concedes that Mason punched the officer, Shawn Izzo, while she was being handcuffed, and notes that Mason is African-American and Izzo is white.
"I just feel as if the color of my skin was different, this wouldn't have happened to me," Mason told reporters.
Izzo didn't respond to email requests for comment.
Officer Michael Rodriguez, a police spokesman, said the department doesn't comment on litigation. Rodriguez said an internal affairs review found Izzo's actions weren't excessive.
Records show that Mason was one of two people arrested on felony battery on a police officer charges in the incident. Six others were arrested on misdemeanor charges.
Bryson released a compact disc with 6 minutes, 24 seconds of silent color video clips showing some parts of Mason's arrest.
It shows Mason variously compliant and combative while Izzo, in uniform, and a female security guard drag Mason away from other scuffles. At one point, Izzo holds Mason's head in the crook of his arm on the marble hotel lobby floor.
After Mason is handcuffed and brought to her feet, she appears to stiffen and Izzo pushes her forward over the large decorative table. A tall centerpiece glass vase wobbles but remains upright as Mason's head pitches forward.
Police and casino security appear to struggle with several other people nearby while tourists with suitcases point cellphone cameras toward the action.
Bryson said the CD clips were derived from casino ceiling surveillance camera video obtained by police and turned over to him by prosecutors while he defended Mason in a felony battery on an officer complaint. That case was dismissed March 17 in Las Vegas Justice Court. Records show Mason paid $285.
Mason appeared emotional as she faced reporters Thursday flanked by Bryson, her parents, Fred and Francina Mason of Teaneck, New Jersey, and an aunt from Los Angeles, television personality Rolonda Watts.
Mason acknowledged that she was 20 when she was in the club, but said she had "only two drinks" before the altercation outside. She said she wasn't asked for proof of age when she arrived with her boyfriend, who was performing as a disc jockey.
A risk management official with club operator Hakkasan Group didn't immediately respond Thursday to a question about underage drinking.