SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - A jury should determine whether state park rangers had probable cause to arrest a fisherman for allegedly threatening to beat up a man at the Seacliff State Park Beach, a federal judge ruled.
Officer Phillip Hauck arrested Berry Adams in June 2009 for allegedly verbally abusing and making threats against Greg Inloes.
Inloes had claimed that Adams threatened to beat him up during an argument on the beach over an article Inloes wrote on Adams' new fishing lure. "I will have to come fuck your crippled ass up," Adams reportedly said. "I will fuck you up and put you in the ICU."
Hauck maintained that he believed Adams was dangerous based on Inloes' claim. The accuser had told Hauck about other instances in which he claimed to have seen Adams attack other people on the pier.
On June 24, 2009, Hauck and four other officers approached Adams on the pier where he was fishing, but would not tell him why he was under arrest. Adams claims Officer Daniel Kraft kicked his right hand and wrist and put him in a painful compliance hold. Though Adams was eventually released, he was ejected from the pier a month later for allegedly yelling at another fisherman who as crossing his line with that of Adams.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said the officers cannot substantiate their claim that Adams exhibited a history of violence that necessitated his immediate arrest. "While plaintiff obviously is not privy to what Inloes told Hauck, he offers evidence, presented during his criminal proceedings, that casts sufficient doubt on the credibility of defendants' assertions so as to create a triable issue of material fact," she wrote.
The judge was also suspicious that Inloes had waited two days to report the altercation with Adams.
A jury must decide whether Adams' alleged resistance warranted the officers' use of force, according to the court. "A reasonable jury could weigh the evidence and conclude that the balance of competing interests did not justify defendants' use of force, no matter how minimal, such that defendants' actions were objectively unreasonable and thus violative of plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights," Koh wrote.
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