Trials & Litigation

Judge tosses $40M excessive-force suit against Ferguson police

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A federal judge on Monday dismissed a $40 million suit that claimed police in Ferguson, Missouri, used excessive force against protesters after police fatally shot Michael Brown in 2014.

U.S. District Judge Henry Autry dismissed the case on Monday, report NBC News, the Associated Press, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Courthouse News Service.

Autrey’s decision (PDF) said the protesters who sued had ignored repeated warnings to disperse, and the police officers were entitled to qualified immunity. The officers “acted without malice or bad faith; they clearly had arguable probable cause to arrest any individuals who refused to comply with the orders to disperse,” Autrey said.

Excessive force claims by the plaintiffs couldn’t be proven or were undercut by contrary evidence, Autrey said. One plaintiff who alleged he was subjected to a “gruesome” beating by five or six officers had told paramedics he was shot with rubber bullets and subjected to tear gas after failing to heed orders to disperse, and his X-rays and CT scans were normal.

Another woman said she was arrested inside a McDonald’s and police officers rushed her “like something out of a movie.” But videos showed she was arrested a block away, Autrey said.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal.

One of the lawyers for the protesters, Gregory Lattimer, commented on the ruling in an interview with the Post-Dispatch. “It’s unfortunate that the Constitution has such a rough time in Missouri, but I think that the court of appeals will look at this and make a determination that … the judge’s refusal to allow these cases to go forward was not consistent with applicable law,” he said.

“This is summary judgment and a jury should have been able to decide whether or not these actions were OK,” Lattimer said.

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