Tort Law

Judge Rules for Pro Se Plaintiff in Twin-Taser Civil Rights Suit

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Reaching a different conclusion than police internal investigators, a federal magistrate judge has ruled that two Tukwila, Wash., officers used excessive force when they simultaneously Tasered a suspect.

Siding with pro se plaintiff Terrance Releford, Judge Mary Alice Theiler found that his civil rights were violated in the June 2006 arrest and “also recommended that Releford be provided an attorney to pursue damages against the department,” reports the Seattle Times. Although he had a history of arrests and the police found him difficult to deal with, Releford was at least partially cooperative with the officers throughout his arrest on outstanding warrants, Theiler says in a written opinion, pointing out that he initially responded to their orders by putting his hands in the air.

Releford, who is 6-foot-5, and weighs 280 pounds, likely didn’t know what to do when the two officers, Josh Vivet and Mike Richardson, both told him to turn around, as one officer stood in front of him and the other stood in back of him, the judge writes. When Releford hesitated, they both fired their Tasers at him, the newspaper reports, relying on police and court records. Then, as he lay on the ground, they both Tasered him again, when he didn’t respond quickly enough to their orders to put his hands behind his back to be cuffed. (He did roll over on his stomach, as they told him to do.)

While Theiler’s ruling is not the final answer, it could well be adopted by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez, who is hearing the case, the newspaper notes.

Related coverage: “11th Circuit Tosses Taser Case; YouTube Video of Incident Lets Viewers Judge”

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