CHICAGO (CN) – A jury will decide whether police were right to Taser a man, an action that caused the suspect to break his ankle, while responding to a disturbance at White Castle, a federal judge ruled.
The situation unfolded in June 2007 when Quincy Brown, his brother William Brown and a friend placed an order at a drive-thru White Castle in the Chicago suburb of Blue Island.
Quincy Brown says he walked in to the restaurant without receiving his order because he was upset with the drive-thru operator’s apparently “unprofessional response,” according to the court’s summary. William Brown followed inside three to seven minutes later to tell his brother, “Let’s go.”
After police received a call about the disturbance, three officers arrived and placed Quincy Brown under arrest.
William Brown says Officer F. Navarro first told him to leave the scene, but that Officer J. Murray was holding his ID and told him to stay. Once William Brown got his ID back, he tried to leave, but Navarro allegedly ordered him to come back and directed Murray to make an arrest.
William Brown claims that he did not resist but that Navarro approached to Taser him.
“The only undisputed movement by Brown is a single hand-raise with his right hand to approximately shoulder height after Officer Navarro pulled out his Taser and before he used it,” the court said.
Once Navarro deployed the Taser, William Brown fell and broke his ankle, an injury that has since required two surgeries to repair.
Officer K. Sisk, who was not present at the White Castle arrest, later approved charging William Brown with two counts of obstructing a peace officer. One of the counts was later changed to resisting arrest.
William Brown filed a federal complaint for false arrest and excessive force against the city of Blue Island, Sisk, Navarro, Murray and Officer Delgadillo, the third officer at the White Castle.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall granted summary judgment to Sisk alone last week.
“Sisk ‘can only be liable for what he did; there is no doctrine of supervisory liability for the errors of subordinates’ such as the arresting officers,” Kendall wrote, quoting precedent.
Claims against the other officers and the city, which did not move for summary judgment, will proceed to trial.
“Brown’s demeanor, words, and actions prior to the hand-raise, and the degree to which Officer Murray had him otherwise secured, are all issues of fact that are in dispute and need to be evaluated by a jury in order to determine whether the arresting officers could have had an ‘objectively reasonable’ belief that Brown was attempting to physically ‘withstand the force or effect’ of the arresting officers’ attempts to arrest him,” the ruling states.
“Brown’s only physical action was to raise his right hand toward his shoulder upon being told that he would be tased, after he had voluntarily and peacefully submitted to arrest and already had his left hand cuffed behind his back,” Kendall wrote.
“A reasonable jury could find that an officer could not have reasonably believed that the use of a taser on an already restrained individual – who had voluntarily submitted to restraint – was appropriate,” she added.