ST. LOUIS – A federal jury on Wednesday rejected a man’s claims that he was brutally beaten while handcuffed by Ferguson police in 2009, five years before the Michael Brown shooting shined a national spotlight on the St. Louis suburb.
Ferguson police arrested Henry M. 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.
Davis sued Ferguson and three police officers in 2010. Along with his claim of being beaten while handcuffed, Davis also claimed he was charged with destruction of property for bleeding on the officer’s uniforms.
Ferguson and the police officers argued that Davis became combative about being placed in a jail cell and lashed out first. They denied beating him while handcuffed.
The City of Ferguson was dismissed as a defendant before the case went to trial. The three police officers – John Beaird, Michael White and Kim Tihen – remained as defendants.
In 2014, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nannette Baker granted a motion for judgment in favor of Beaird finding there was no evidence that Beaird’s actions had risen to a conscience-shocking level and that Davis’ injuries were minor enough to escape liability for a constitutional violation.
Last July, the 8th Circuit reversed Baker’s ruling and sent the case back to federal court for further proceedings.
“It’s gratifying that after all this time, the defendants were finally vindicated,” Peter Dunne, one of the lawyers for the officers, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Dunne said that jurors deliberated just an hour. He also said that while they found in favor of Officer Michael White in his battery counterclaim against Davis, the jury did not award White any money.
White claimed Davis punched him in the face during the altercation, fracturing his nose.
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