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Lawsuit Against Ferguson, St. Louis County Police Argues Officers Handled Citizens as ‘War Combatants’

Screen shot of police at Ferguson protests (from “Democracy Now!” clip on police militarization linked to at bottom of post)

A lawsuit filed against Ferguson and St. Louis County police officers seeks millions of dollars in damages for violations of rights and laws, which allegedly occurred while police were in the process of aggressively suppressing protests.

Altogether, seven different individuals allege they were falsely arrested. Multiple individuals also contend officers intentionally inflicted “emotional distress,” committed “assault and battery,” deprived them of their civil rights and police neglected to supervise and discipline the officers engaged in this misconduct.

The complaint, which was filed in the Eastern District of Missouri, states, “A public outcry about the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. by Officer [Darren] Wilson turned into protests, which subsequently led to civil unrest in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, when defendants took up arms and in militaristic displays of force and weaponry, engaged US citizens as if they were war combatants.”

It only involves alleged instances of “wanton excessive force, under color of law, which deprived plaintiffs of rights,” which occurred from August 11 to August 13.

According to the complaint, on August 11 around 8 pm, Damon Coleman and Theophilus Green were engaged in peaceful protest on West Florissant nearby the QuikTrip convenience store, which had caught fire and burned down. They also recorded St. Louis County police in riot gear, as they pulled up in armored personnel carriers. Other officers put on riot gear and “armed themselves.”

The escalation prompted protesters to turn toward the police and chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” with arms raised in the air. More armored vehicles arrived and police took up tactical positions to disperse the protest. They then fired tear gas at the protesters.

Police allegedly spotted Coleman and Green and then began shooting them with tear gas and “what appeared to be stun grenades.” They had their hands up and eventually got down on their knees. Police repeatedly shot them with rubber bullets and then placed them under arrest.

While officers were arresting them, officers “hurled racial epithets at them, while punching and kicking them the entire time.” They were taken to the Clayton police station where they were ridiculed, placed in “small cells,” and held for “more than 12 hours.”

On August 13, a Wednesday night, DeWayne A. Matthews Jr. traveled to his mother’s house in Ferguson. He took public transportation, but the road was blocked off. He got off the bus and proceeded to the corner of West Florissant and Highmont when he was allegedly confronted by eight unidentifiable police officers clad in military-type uniforms “who had their weapons trained upon him.”

Matthews put his hands up in the air immediately but was shot “multiple times with rubber bullets.” He then fell into a “creek or sewer” and was pinned down by an officer, who “slammed his face into the concrete and pushed his head underwater to the point that he felt that he was going to be drowned.”

CommunityThe Dissenter

Lawsuit Against Ferguson, St. Louis County Police Argues Officers Handled Citizens as ‘War Combatants’

Screen shot of police at Ferguson protests (from “Democracy Now!” clip on police militarization linked to at bottom of post)

A lawsuit filed against Ferguson and St. Louis County police officers seeks millions of dollars in damages for violations of rights and laws, which allegedly occurred while police were in the process of aggressively suppressing protests.

Altogether, seven different individuals allege they were falsely arrested. Multiple individuals also contend officers intentionally inflicted “emotional distress,” committed “assault and battery,” deprived them of their civil rights and police neglected to supervise and discipline the officers engaged in this misconduct.

The complaint, which was filed in the Eastern District of Missouri, states, “A public outcry about the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. by Officer [Darren] Wilson turned into protests, which subsequently led to civil unrest in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, when defendants took up arms and in militaristic displays of force and weaponry, engaged US citizens as if they were war combatants.”

It only involves alleged instances of “wanton excessive force, under color of law, which deprived plaintiffs of rights,” which occurred from August 11 to August 13.

According to the complaint, on August 11 around 8 pm, Damon Coleman and Theophilus Green were engaged in peaceful protest on West Florissant nearby the QuikTrip convenience store, which had caught fire and burned down. They also recorded St. Louis County police in riot gear, as they pulled up in armored personnel carriers. Other officers put on riot gear and “armed themselves.”

The escalation prompted protesters to turn toward the police and chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” with arms raised in the air. More armored vehicles arrived and police took up tactical positions to disperse the protest. They then fired tear gas at the protesters.

Police allegedly spotted Coleman and Green and then began shooting them with tear gas and “what appeared to be stun grenades.” They had their hands up and eventually got down on their knees. Police repeatedly shot them with rubber bullets and then placed them under arrest.

While officers were arresting them, officers “hurled racial epithets at them, while punching and kicking them the entire time.” They were taken to the Clayton police station where they were ridiculed, placed in “small cells,” and held for “more than 12 hours.”

On August 13, a Wednesday night, DeWayne A. Matthews Jr. traveled to his mother’s house in Ferguson. He took public transportation, but the road was blocked off. He got off the bus and proceeded to the corner of West Florissant and Highmont when he was allegedly confronted by eight unidentifiable police officers clad in military-type uniforms “who had their weapons trained upon him.”

Matthews put his hands up in the air immediately but was shot “multiple times with rubber bullets.” He then fell into a “creek or sewer” and was pinned down by an officer, who “slammed his face into the concrete and pushed his head underwater to the point that he felt that he was going to be drowned.” (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."