Robert Patrick, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 4, 2016
A federal judge has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit that alleged police used excessive force against Ferguson protesters and violated their civil rights.
U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey on Friday ruled in favor of summary judgment motions filed by police, police officials, St. Louis County and the city of Ferguson. The order appeared publicly in electronic court files Monday, the same day that lawyers for protesters filed a notice that they would appeal.
In his order, Autrey said that the protesters who filed the suit “have completely failed to present any credible evidence that any of the actions taken by these individuals were taken with malice or were committed in bad faith.”
Autrey wrote that protesters were told to disperse, and when they did not and officers were ordered to begin making arrests, those officers gave repeated warnings before they started arresting protesters.
Autrey ruled that many of the plaintiffs’ claims were not backed up by video evidence or other testimony.
Tracey White, one of the plaintiffs, had alleged that she and her 17-year-old son were arrested inside of the Ferguson McDonald’s. She claimed officers with rifles rushed in “like something out of a movie.” She claimed that she was thrown to the ground and arrested when she protested the treatment of her son, who she claimed was arrested when she tried to give him the iPad she was carrying.
But videos showed that she was actually arrested a block away. “She agreed that video showed an officer placing hand ties on her, and that she was not on the ground, and that there was no knee in her back,” Autrey wrote. “No racial epithets or slurs were used against Tracey White.”
Another plaintiff, Dwayne A. Matthews Jr., had claimed that he was walking to his mother’s house on Aug. 13 when he was shot with rubber-coated bullets, pepper-sprayed and nearly drowned in a drainage ditch before being beaten before and after he was restrained.
But Autrey wrote that Matthews’ “own statements (to paramedics and hospital staff) belie his position.”
Plaintiffs Damon Coleman and Theophilus Green claimed that they were hit by less-than-lethal projectiles fired by three officers, Autrey found, but were unable to contradict statements by those officers that they were not carrying such equipment that night.
Other plaintiffs were unable to identify the officers that they claimed committed violations, Autrey found, or were not hurt during the encounters.
The original $41.5 million lawsuit was filed Aug. 28, 2014, by protesters who variously alleged that they were pepper-sprayed, shot with rubber bullets, beaten and arrested. It was amended to add more plaintiffs that October.
This year, lawyers for the police filed motions to dismiss, claiming that much of what had been alleged was incorrect.