Picture the scene: A young teen was walking along a sidewalk, talking with his girlfriend on his cell phone. A dark sedan rolls to the curb next to him. Three men in the car call to him and demand money, drugs and a gun, practice commonly called a
…which the police intend to rattle drug dealers.
The teen, in fear for his life, runs. The men climb out of the car, pursue, then after receiving a few hits, finally identify themselves as police, arrest the youth for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.
The police, meanwhile, claim they did identify themselves and that the arrest was justified, for they thought the teen had a weapon in his pocket after spotting what they call
The cops said they stopped the teen because of his suspicious behavior. They alleged finding a soft drink bottle in the pocket and later threw it away. (Can we say, “Destruction of evidence?”) The black teen in dreadlocks denied ever having any such bottle.
Anyway, during the youth’s initial criminal trial. the magistrate dismissed the charges against him, stating he didn’t believe the officers’ story. Hence, the civil suit for wrongful arrest and excessive force. The first civil trial ended in a deadlocked jury, and a second action was scheduled.
The jury on that subsequent action returned with a split decision: They awarded a total of $119,000 in damages, including $6,000 in punitive damages from each officer, for wrongful arrest but did not find for the plaintiff in use of excessive force.