Seven months after the U.S. Justice Department forced the city of Ferguson, Missouri, to overhaul its police department, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged officers used excessive force when dealing with protestors following the police shooting of Michael Brown.
In the days following the August 9, 2014, fatal shooting, a group of protesters filed a civil rights suit seeking $41.5 million for “false arrest, intentional inflict of emotional distress, negligent supervision and assault and battery.” They alleged that officers—from various local police departments, including Ferguson and St. Louis County—beat, tear gassed and shot them with rubber bullets during their arrests. Judge Henry Autry issued a ruling that was filed electronically yesterday (October 3)—posted courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch—that not only throws out the claim, but provides the accused officers with immunity.
Autry wrote that the protestors did not follow officers’ “repeated warnings” to disperse and that the fact that they were unable to identify some of the officers involved precludes them from being able to successfully sue. Plaintiffs have long held that many of the officers were wearing gas masks and had removed their name badges during the uprising.
From the summary judgment, which was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri’s Eastern Division:
The uncontroverted facts, however establish that Plaintiff Burns heard the orders to disperse, had observed tear gas and smoke being used. He did not disperse, rather, he remained at the location. He does not know who the officers he has sued are, and does not know what they did August 11, 2014.
Interestingly, the ruling also includes a run down of one of the plaintiff’s previous legal trouble, before attempting to prove that her account of her arrest was falsified.
“The decision was unfair and not consistent with applicable law,” Gregory Lattimer, one of the attorneys who represented the protesters, told NBC News. The plaintiffs filed an appeal to the decision yesterday, via the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
(H/t St. Louis Post-Dispatch)