Cops Will Face Mom’s Distress Claim in Son’s Beating

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Police officers who dragged a man from a car and beat him unconscious must also face charges they caused his mother, who witnessed the assault, severe emotional distress, a federal judge ruled.
     Malad Baldwin, who was 22 at the time of the incident, was snoozing in the passenger seat of his mother’s car on April 28, 2014, while he waited for her to finish getting ready for a visit to the hospital.
     At about 4:30 p.m., two police officers with the Bay Area city of Antioch suddenly ripped him from the car without warning and beat him until he was unconscious, according to a June 2015 complaint filed in Federal Court in San Francisco.
     “Defendant officer James Colley immediately slammed plaintiff Malad Baldwin’s body against the side of the vehicle, handcuffed him, and then slammed him down onto the adjacent pavement, face and head first, causing [him] to immediately lose consciousness and causing severe physical injuries,” the complaint states. “The next thing that plaintiff remembers is that defendant officer Casey Brogdon then placed his knee on the back of plaintiff’s neck, further forcing his head and face to scrape the rough pavement, and then began punching [him] about the head, face and body.”
     The complaint also describes Colley “repeatedly striking plaintiff … with a large metal police-issued flashlight with extremely forceful blows to the anal/genital area which had been exposed by forcefully separating plaintiff’s legs while [he] lay face down. The pain of these blows caused plaintiff to again temporarily lose consciousness.”
     Baldwin regained consciousness again, but was racked with more pain as the officers pulled his legs and wrists, exacerbating his surgically repaired wrist.
     “When plaintiff … again regained consciousness, he felt one or both of the defendant officers pulling on his wrists, legs and feet, and exclaimed ‘My hand! I’m hurt! I just had surgery!’ because plaintiff had recently had surgery on his left wrist to repair an artery, to which defendant officer James Colley shouted ‘Shut the fuck up!’ and ‘Quit resisting!'” according to the complaint.
     Baldwin’s mother, Kathryn Wade, came outside when she heard the commotion, only to see her son on the ground, bleeding and being beaten by the officers who told her to “Shut the fuck up!” and “Go back inside the house!”
     “Plaintiff Kathryn Wade then informed the officers that she needed the assistance of a cane to walk, but the officers ignored her and again shouted ‘Go back inside,’ causing Ms. Wade to fall and sustain physical injuries,” the complaint states.
     Baldwin and his mother sued Colley and Brogdon, the Antioch Police Department and the city of Antioch for violations of the U.S. Constitution, assault, battery and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
     The defendants moved to dismiss counts four, five and six of the complaint on Aug. 18, 2015, for failure to state a claim and sought dismissal of the police department as a defendant on the grounds that is a “redundant” party. They also argued the plaintiffs did not adequately allege a basis for Monell liability and that the claims for employer liability superior and negligent infliction of emotional distress “fail for a lack of cognizable legal theory, and that leave to amend is futile.”
     The plaintiffs conceded the dismissal of the employer liability claim and dismissal of the police department as a redundant party.
     They did not, however, part from their contention in count four that the city is negligent in failing to equip police officers with body cameras and in count six, which claims the defendant officers negligently inflicted emotional distress on Wade.
     U.S. District Judge Kandis Westmore threw out the body camera claim.
     “The court finds that plaintiffs’ cannot establish, as a matter of law, that the city’s non-use of body cameras provides a basis for Monell liability,” she said in a 10-page order. “The court is unpersuaded by the argument that ‘recurring situations in Antioch and across the nation have made it plainly clear that police misconduct is highly predictable in the absence of body-cams.’ Rather, as defendants contend, requiring officers to wear body cameras ‘may be a commendable goal for a police department to strive for, should they have the necessary resources.”
     The defendants claimed immunity under state law for the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, but Westmore said those laws do not “insulate” them from the affects the officers’ actions had on Wade.
     “The allegations at least support an inference that the helplessness she felt as she watched her son being beaten by officers and the resulting shock she suffered from witnessing that event was sufficiently serious to support a claim for emotional distress.”
     Plaintiffs’ attorney, Mark Kelsey in nearby Walnut Creek said Coffey is part of another lawsuit he is currently litigating.
     “I’m actually representing two different clients, cases against Officer Colley,” he told Courthouse News. “The other case is Mabutas v. Colley, et al. That case is different than the Baldwin case. It involves a shooting, but what is common is that the victim is a young man of color.”
     Kelsey said part of the intention behind the claims in the Baldwin case was to set a national precedent relating to the use of body cameras.
     “I was trying to advance the argument that the Fourth Amendment itself was the source of the duty to provide those cameras,” he said. “It was an attempt at a novel and groundbreaking argument, but the judge didn’t find any existing law to support that.”

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