Force Claims Against Ferguson Police Revived

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – The Eighth Circuit revived assault claims brought by a man charged with destruction of police property for bleeding on the uniforms of Ferguson, Mo., police officers who he claims beat him while he was in handcuffs.
     Henry Davis brought the case at issue in 2010 – well before the police killing of Michael Brown made Ferguson a household name – over his treatment in one of the city’s crowded jail cells.
     Ferguson police had arrested Davis in the early-morning hours of Sept. 20, 2009, for speeding and suspected drunken driving, claiming he was going more than 100 mph, that his vehicle smelled of alcohol and that he refused to take a breathalyzer.
     Davis, who now lives in Mississippi, said it was raining hard that night and that he had pulled off the road in Ferguson after missing his exit coming off the highway from a friend’s house.
     He claims he was never asked to take a sobriety test and was told he was being arrested on outstanding warrants.
     While it is undisputed that a short, bloody fight ensued as officers put Davis in a cell, the parties disagree as to whether Davis was combative. For his part, Davis says he only raised his arms up over his head to protect himself.
     He was later treated in an emergency room for a broken nose and a scalp laceration.
     To go with the traffic offenses, Officer John Beaird then prepared charges against Davis that included destruction of police property for Davis’ blood getting on the officers’ uniforms.
     Davis sued Ferguson, Beaird and two other officers, Michael White and Kim Tihen, and his excessive-force, assault-and-battery and due-process claims eventually went before a federal jury in St. Louis.
     The judge granted the defendants summary judgment at the close of trial, however, prompting an appeal by Davis to the Eighth Circuit.
     At that April hearing, attorney James Schottel noted that Beaird changed his story about his client’s blood on the police uniforms several times.
     A three-judge panel revived excessive-force and assault-and-battery claims against the officers Tuesday, blasting the trial court for holding that “as unreasonable as it may sound, a reasonable officer could have believed that beating a subdued and compliant Mr. Davis while causing only a concussion, scalp laceration, and bruising with almost no permanent damage did not violate the Constitution.”
     “That an officer’s conduct caused only de minimis injuries does not necessarily establish the absence of malice or bad faith as a matter of law,” Judge James Loken wrote for the court. “Accordingly, we reverse the grant of summary judgment on this ground.”
     Chief Judge William Jay Riley and Judge Bobby Shepherd concurred in the 11-page opinion.

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