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Federal jury finds for police in Ferguson protester's claims of excessive force

Robert Patrick, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in News & Features

ST. LOUIS -- A federal jury Friday found in favor of St. Louis County police officers who had been sued by a Ferguson protester who claimed they used excessive force.

The original suit, filed on behalf of 10 people in 2014 and seeking $41.5 million, claimed that police used excessive force while arresting them during protests in the days after the Aug. 9, 2014, shooting of Michael Brown by then-Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey granted summary judgment to police, police officials, St. Louis County and the city of Ferguson in October 2016, ruling that the plaintiffs "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."

Officers and their bosses were "entitled to official and qualified immunity" from the suit, adding that many of the claims were not backed up by evidence.

In August 2017, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals said Autrey should not have dismissed claims by Dwayne A. Matthews Jr., as his allegations against police would represent unreasonable, excessive force if proved. Matthews said he was held underwater, pepper-sprayed and beaten for two to three minutes by St. Louis County police.

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In court filings before the trial, police lawyers said Matthews ignored smoke, tear gas, fleeing protesters, shouted police warnings and bean bag rounds from a shotgun while advancing toward police lines. He either jumped or fell into a culvert. An officer pulled him out, and Matthews thrashed and ignored pepper spray as officers tried to handcuff him, the filing says. They also said it took only a short time to handcuff Mathews.

(c)2019 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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