ST. LOUIS (CN) – The 8th Circuit has reinstated a business owner’s lawsuit against a police chief who allegedly blocked the entrance to his body shop during a traffic stop and arrested the owner for asking him to move.
Norman Steibel claims that Bella Villa Police Chief Edward Locke pulled over a vehicle and blocked the entrance and exit to his welding and body shop in October 2007.
After Steibel asked Locke to move his car several times, Locke allegedly slammed Steibel, who was 67 at the time, into the back of his squad car and arrested him. Steibel claims the handcuffs cut his wrists, and he suffered permanent knee injuries from the excessive force.
A federal judge granted summary judgment to Locke, ruling that the chief had probable cause for arrest, and that Steibel had not met the burden of proving excessive force.
But a three-judge panel in St. Louis reversed the lower court’s findings on probable cause and excessive force.
“Chief Locke merely reacted to Steibel’s use of loud, profane language coupled with Steibel’s expressive gestures in directing the chief to move his cruiser away from Steibel’s business,” Judge C. Arlen Beam wrote.
“No reasonable police officer could believe that he had actual probable cause to arrest a citizen for such protected activity.”
The court said a jury, not a judge, should decide if Steibel’s alleged injuries were the result of his pre-existing conditions or excessive force.
The panel reinstated Steibel’s claims of unlawful arrest and excessive force against Locke, but upheld the dismissal of his claims against the city.
Bella Villa is 10 miles southwest of St. Louis.