Police Can Settle With Fred Hampton Jr.

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Oakland and Emeryville can settle claims that police arrested Fred Hampton Jr. and three friends at gunpoint without probable cause, a federal judge ruled.
     The parties agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice Tuesday, according to an order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu.
     Hampton’s father, Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, was shot to death in his sleep in 1969 by Chicago police and FBI agents. Deborah Johnson, Fred Hampton Jr.’s mother, gave birth four weeks later.
     Tuesday’s dismissal came the day after Ryu partially dismissed Emeryville and Oakland’s motion for summary judgment in the civil rights action brought against them by Hampton, Nyoka Lowery, Dawn Scott and Ramal Lamar.
     The incident began when a woman reported that two women, one of whom was African American, had attacked her with pepper spray and stolen her purse, which contained her iPhone. She said the thieves drove off in a white Toyota with gray trim.
     Emeryville police Officer Richard Lee then saw Lowery, who allegedly matched the suspect’s description, driving a silver Mitsubishi. Though her car did not match the description, Lee followed Lowery on the grounds that she was driving away from the scene of the crime and because eyewitnesses often mistake the make, model and color of cars, according to the ruling.
     The plaintiffs said they were driving toward the scene of the robbery, on their way to Target. They claim the police did not start following them until an officer going the opposite direction made eye contact with Hampton, who was in the front seat.
     Lee followed them to the Target parking lot and pulled behind Lowery as she parked. Two other Emeryville police officers arrived seconds later.
     The plaintiffs said the officers ordered them out of the car at gunpoint and handcuffed them, and did not release them until the victim arrived and said that none of them had robbed her.
     The plaintiffs claimed the detention lasted 60 to 90 minutes, while the police said it took from 35 minutes to an hour.
     Hampton et al. sued Emeryville and Oakland in July 2013 on nine causes of action, including civil rights violations, battery by a police officer and false imprisonment. In September this year they moved to amend to substitute the Doe defendants with Emeryville Officers Lee and Yu and Oakland Officers Ko and Carter.
     Ryu denied their petition to amend on the grounds that they filed it five days after the defendants moved for summary judgment.
     The plaintiffs acknowledged that they knew which officers were involved as early as September 2013 and that nothing had stopped them from deposing them to determine the extent of their involvement. Given these facts, the court found that their motion amounted to an “improper attempt to avoid dismissal.”
     Ryu dismissed four additional claims because the plaintiffs conceded they had no evidence to support them, as well as all of Lowery and Scott’s claims against Oakland.
     But she refused to dismiss their false imprisonment claims against Emeryville because the “totality of the circumstances” and the facts of the matter indicated that the plaintiffs’ detention amounted to an arrest, which the police had no probable cause to enact.
     Scott’s state law battery claim against Emeryville also passed Ryu’s muster because there was a dispute as to how long she sat in the back of the patrol car, crying and complaining about the pain in her arm before the officers switched her handcuffs to the front.
     Ryu refused to dismiss Lamar and Hamptons’ false imprisonment claims against Oakland for similar reasons, saying its officers had no probable cause to arrest the two men.

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