Ferguson protest lawsuit revived by appeals court
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Eighth District Court of Appeals reversed part of a prior judge’s dismissal stemming from a $40 million lawsuit that had been brought by 10 people.
The lawsuit was filed alleging that police used excessive force and made improper arrests during protests that followed the August 9, 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Missouri, court documents revealed.
The plaintiff, Dwayne Matthews Jr., had his part of the suit restored by the panel. St. Louis County, of which Ferguson is a suburb, and individual officers are named in the lawsuit.
US District Judge Henry Autrey dismissed the lawsuit last year and said the protesters ignored repeated requests from police to disperse and also that the officers named in the lawsuit were immune to any charges.
Autrey claimed that medical records contradicted Matthews’ claims in the suit, according to court documents.
Autry found that the protesters failed to provide any credible evidence that proves the police tactics in question, were carried out with malice, or bad faith. Autry also found that the protesters did not present any video evidence or other testimony to support many of the allegations in the prior hearing.
The claims revived by the Eighth Circuit Court detail that police beat Matthews and held his head underwater for several seconds in a roadside culvert, slammed his face onto pavement and pepper sprayed him after he was repeatedly shot with bean bags and rubber bullets. Matthews claims he was walking to his mother’s home through the protests at the time these acts were perpetrated against him, according to the court documents.
The altercation happened after Matthews disobeyed police officers who told him to stop approaching them, the Eighth Circuit Court wrote. The accused officers have denied that they mistreated Matthews, who was subsequently examined at a hospital for his injuries and released.
“While the officers and Matthews vehemently disagree about whether Matthews was resisting and the extent and reasonableness of the force applied, these fact disputes cannot be resolved on summary judgment,” the appeals court wrote.
Another suit against officials which claims they did not properly train, supervise and discipline the accused officers in Matthews’s case, should have also been upheld in a prior ruling, according to the panel.
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Gregory Lattimer, disagreed with the appeals court’s decision to only revive Matthews’ claims, stating in an email that “we all disagree with the circuit court’s decision and this fight for human rights and dignity is far from over,” the Associated Press reported.
Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, was never charged and resigned following the fallout from the 2014 shooting.