Federal Judge Throws Out $41M Lawsuit Accusing Ferguson Police of Excessive Force

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Image courtesy of MarchForward.org.
Image courtesy of MarchForward.org.

A U.S. federal judge has moved to dismiss a $41.5 million civil rights lawsuit accusing Ferguson, Missouri police of using excessive force on protesters during the unrest sparked by the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Judge Henry Autrey ruled in favor of summary motions filed by Ferguson police, police officials, St. Louis County and the city of Ferguson on Friday. In his ruling, Autrey said the nine protesters who filed the civil rights suit had “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.”

The lawsuit, filed in 2014, alleges that officers unlawfully arrested, beat, tear-gassed and shot rubber bullets at  protesters during the Ferguson protests, NBC News reports. The judge didn’t take their side, however, asserting that protesters were given multiple warnings to disperse but ignored them.

Not only did Autrey throw out the case, but he also granted immunity to the officers from the lawsuit.

“The decision was unfair and not consistent with applicable law,” Gregory Lattimer, one of the lawyers representing the protesters,” told NBC News.

Lattimer also expressed “disappointment and frustration,” after reading the judge’s decision, which was filed electronically on Monday. Members of the NAACP’s St. Louis chapter shared similar feelings.

“We are disappointed in the end result that plaintiffs didn’t get what they wanted,” said St. Louis NAACP president Adolphus Pruitt.

Despite the minor setback, Lattimer and his plaintiffs have already filed to appeal Judge Autrey’s decision in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“This is a battle we will keep fighting,” he said. “We will end it in the right way and get justice for these people.”

The publication reports that lawyers for the police filed motions to dismiss the case earlier this year, asserting that many of the claims made by plaintiffs were incorrect. For instance, plaintiff Tracey White alleged that she and her teenage son were arrested inside a Ferguson McDonald’s. White claimed that officers threw her to the ground and arrested her when she protested their treatment of her son. However, video evidence showed she was actually arrested about a block away, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“[White] 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 in his ruling. “No racial epithets or slurs were used against Tracey White.”

Another two plaintiffs, Damon Coleman and Theophilus Green, accused three officers of firing less-than-lethal projectiles at them, but the judge ruled that Coleman and Green were unable to contradict statements from police who said they were carrying no such weapons that night.

Autrey also wrote that the plaintiffs were unable to properly identify the officers they claimed used excessive force on them.

“They obscure their identity and then because you can’t identify them, then the officer goes free,” Lattimer said of his clients’ inability to pinpoint the accused officers. “That is not the way it is supposed to work.”

The nine plaintiffs were among hundreds of protesters arrested during demonstrations following the death of Brown, 18, who was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson. Intense race-infused protests continued after Wilson avoided a conviction in the Black teen’s death.

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