He resisted arrest, grabbed at an officer’s duty belt, then (unsuccessfully) sued hoping for a $1M payout

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TOPEKA, KS – Timothy Harris was counting on a $1 million payoff from the city of Topeka, Kansas, amid a social justice environment that has been favorable to criminal suspects who claim excessive force.

He was counting on it but instead must find a way to pay the legal expenses of a Topeka Police Department officer after a jury ruled against him in a lawsuit alleging excessive force during a 2018 arrest.

 

U.S. District Judge Dan Crabtree issued an order June 2 requiring Harris to cover Officer Chris Janes’ costs, including attorney fees, after a federal jury ruled against Harris in a lawsuit seeking $1 million damages plus his own expenses.

In his order, Judge Crabtree stated:

“The court orders that plaintiff recovers nothing, the action is dismissed on the merits, and defendant Christopher Janes recover costs from plaintiff.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how much those costs would entail. Officer Janes’ expenses totaled $37,688.05, according to court documents submitted in mid-January, and Harris’ expenses were listed as $197,120.55.

A federal court jury ruled June 2 that Janes had not violated the constitutional rights of Harris, 38, whose jaw was broken during an altercation while he was being arrested in January 2018 in East Topeka.

Jurors deliberated for about two and a half hours before reaching a unanimous verdict in the use-of-force lawsuit that Harris, who is black, had been pursuing against white police officer Janes, who has been on the force since 2016.

Topeka city attorney Amanda Stanley spoke with reporters after the verdict was rendered at the federal courthouse in Topeka. She said, simply:

“The city is pleased with the jury’s verdict.”

She said jurors understood “what the city has known all along” — that the amount of force Janes had used wasn’t excessive, given the circumstances. Stanley added:

“The plaintiff has the opportunity to appeal, and as such, the City will not comment further on the matter.”

Harris alleged that Janes violated his constitutional rights by beating him and breaking his jaw while his hands were cuffed behind his back in January 2018 in East Topeka, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

 

The court proceedings included multiple viewings of video from a body camera Janes was wearing the evening of the incident.

Topeka police reported that Harris and Janes engaged in an altercation near S.E. 10th and Golden avenues as Janes sought to investigate a complaint he’d taken earlier that day that the suspect had stolen property from Harris’ former girlfriend.

Janes learned after receiving that complaint that Harris was wanted on an outstanding warrant charging him with violating conditions of probation, which was imposed after he was convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia and interfering with law enforcement.

Because of the warrant for probation violation, Harris was most likely going to jail once police found him, Janes testified at the lawsuit trial.

Janes testified that he was patrolling the area to which he was assigned shortly after 7 p.m. when he saw Harris in the driver’s seat of a car illegally parked facing the wrong way in the street near Harris’ home, according to court documents.

Janes said he turned on his patrol unit’s emergency lights. His body cam shows Harris sitting in the driver’s seat of the stopped car as Janes approaches. Harris got out, then got back in the car.

The video shows Janes, Harris and a woman in the front passenger seat talking about the alleged theft and the wrong-way parking.

After Janes tells Harris he’s being detained, Harris takes off his jacket while sitting in the front seat of the car, throws down the cigarette he’s been smoking and gets out of the car.

Janes puts his hands on Harris’ chest, tries unsuccessfully to guide him back into the car and tells Harris he hadn’t given him permission to get out. Janes then cuffs Harris’ hands behind his back.

One of Harris’ attorneys, Carlton Odin, of Chicago-based Action Injury Law Group, claimed that the officer caused the encounter to escalate by losing his temper after Harris then asked him, “Are you happy now?”

One of Janes’ attorneys, Allen Glendenning, of Watkins Calcara in Great Bend, Kansas, countered that Harris had already caused the incident to escalate by resisting physically after he exited the car and Janes tried unsuccessfully to guide him back into it.

Janes was then walking Harris to his patrol unit when Harris began to resist and grabbed Janes’ duty belt, forcing Janes to take Harris to the ground, Glendenning said, adding that Harris fell harder than Janes had intended. 

The Topeka city government issued a statement in Sept. 2018, describing the altercation. It said:

“The officer then placed Harris on the ground for better control until additional officers arrived.

“While on the ground, Harris again grabbed the officer’s duty belt. In response, the officer used two fist strikes to Harris’s torso and applied pepper spray to his face.”

U.S. District Senior Judge Sam Crow ruled in August 2019 that a “reasonable” jury could conclude that Janes violated Harris’ Fourth Amendment rights due to the amount of force he used while Harris’ hands were cuffed behind his back.

Crow wrote that Janes should have known that his actions constituted excessive force. He stated:

“It was unconstitutional to take down the arrestee face-first, to apply knee pressure to his back, to punch him in the face, and to pepper spray him when the arrestee is restrained by handcuffs, is cooperating by walking to the patrol car and is not resisting.”

However, jurors would hear during the trial “the rest of the story,” as the late radio commentator Paul Harvey called it, Glendenning said in his opening statement. 

Janes, who is now a Topeka K-9 officer, testified that Harris displayed at least eight “pre-attack indicators” that set off alarm bells suggesting Harris was about to attack or try to escape.

 

Janes said one indicator was that even though the temperature was in the 30s that night, Harris took off his jacket, a common move among street fighters. Another was that he got out of his car without permission and a third was that he tensed up while being cuffed behind his back. 

Glendenning asked jurors during closing arguments to give special consideration to testimony given by Sgt. Ruben Salamanca, assistant director of the Topeka Police Academy.

Salamanca had testified that Janes’ actions were consistent with those that would be taken by a reasonable police officer.

Glendenning noted that Harris’ attorneys had not provided any alternative versions of what would be considered reasonable police conduct in the situation.

Glendenning stressed to the jury that they take into account:

“. . .whether a reasonable officer on the scene without the benefit of hindsight would have used that much force under similar circumstances.”

Those instructions allow officers to make an “honest mistake” regarding the amount of force needed during an incident. Glendenning said:

“An officer can act reasonably without using the least amount of force necessary, so long as the amount of force used was not excessive. 

“And, if an officer reasonably but mistakenly believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed.”

Harris testified June 1 about his ordeal and subsequent rehabilitation. He said that after Janes punched and pepper sprayed him, a mixture of blood and pepper spray inside his mouth left him feeling like he was unable to breathe. He said he feared he was going to die and begged for his life.

Later, he endured excruciating pain while recovering and while his jaw was wired shut. He told the jury he could eat only chicken broth and beef broth for two months.

Harris said the incident left him with a metal plate in his face and nerve damage and numbness that cause him to drool and makes eating difficult.

Harris initially sued both Janes and the city of Topeka, claiming its police training and supervision policies were largely responsible for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. The count against the city was later dismissed.

The three-man, five-woman jury, whose members all said they hadn’t previously heard about the case, finished hearing testimony in the afternoon on June 1. Harris’ attorneys had put two witnesses on the stand and Janes’ attorneys put forth three witnesses. Harris and Janes each had spent about two hours detailing their side of the incident on the witness stand.

During closing arguments, both attorneys referenced the police reform debates raging nationwide, coming to opposing conclusions.

Odin said that if Janes’ behavior was an example of what’s happening on the national stage:

“It should be called that.”

Glendenning rejected that argument, saying this trial wasn’t an appropriate forum. He said:

“[It’s] not fair to dump it on Officer Janes’ head.”

https://fundourpolice.com/

Police sued after shooting a man accused of waving a gun at drivers, pulling it on police

August 5, 2021

CHARLOTTE, NC – A lawsuit has been filed by a man seriously injured last year after being shot by Pineville officers in February 2020, following reports of a man with a handgun pointing it at people.

Pineville police received a 911 call on February 1, 2020, reporting a man was waving a gun near a busy area off of North Polk Street. Body camera video released by the department detailed what occurred next.

Enroute to the incident, police were told by a dispatcher:

“Should be holding a handgun, black in color.”

Officers Adam Roberts, Jamn Griffin, Nicholas French, and Leslie Gladden responded to the scene.

Officers arrived to observe Timothy Caraway, 24, on the sidewalk. As officers approached the subject, he was holding a black object in his hands. Police later determined the object was a cellphone.

As officers approached, they gave him repeated warnings to drop his weapon. Caraway initially appeared to be complying, but then drew a handgun from his pocket. Officers again gave verbal warnings to Caraway to drop his weapon and then opened fire.

Pineville Police Chief Michael Hudgins said:

“He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a gun. At this time, officers perceived this as an imminent threat.”

Officers Roberts and Griffin fired 12 shots total, hitting Caraway in the wrist, hand, neck, and torso.

Officers immediately transitioned to rendering first aid to the suspect. The video footage clearly showed Caraway’s handgun on the ground near him.

One officer can be heard telling Caraway to put up his hands, and the suspect responded:

“I can’t. I can’t, officer. I can’t, officer. I can’t.”

Caraway told the officers he was sorry, and told them:

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I was just doing what I was told to do. Ya’ll (sic) said, ‘Drop it.’ I’m sorry.

“I went on the ground. Why did y’all shoot me? … Please don’t let me die.”

Caraway told the officers that he had his gun out because a girl was following him:

“This girl keeps following me. I asked her to stop. This girl keeps following me. I just asked her to stop. That’s it, man.”

Caraway was taken to a local hospital for treatment of his injuries and was released days later.

Caraway was charged with four felony counts of assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer, going armed to the terror of the public, carrying a concealed weapon, and resist, obstruct and delay law enforcement officers after his release.

A lawsuit has now been filed in Mecklenburg County Superior Court against the City of Pineville and the four officers involved in the incident.

According to the lawsuit, Caraway suffers from “long-term injuries and trauma because of the Pineville Officers’ use of excessive force.”

The lawsuit claims Caraway was walking to his grandmother’s house when a woman reported a black man waving a gun.

The suit claims that officers gave conflicting commands as they approached Caraway, “including to drop his gun and to put up his hands.”

The lawsuit reads:

“Caraway turned towards the officers, pulled the gun out of his right pocket, held it on his right side facing away from the officers, and started to drop it on the ground. As he bent down on his right knee to place the gun in the grass, he was shot once by Officer Roberts with his assault rifle.”

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages “for loss of liberty, extraordinary emotional pain and suffering, and injuries.”

Pineville Police responded to the lawsuit by pointing out that the officers were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, and also cleared by an independent administrative investigation:

“At this stage, it is important to remember that our officers have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, and we are now at liberty to disclose (that) they have also been cleared through a separate administrative investigation conducted by an outside law enforcement consulting firm.

“This is a difficult time for all of us and we are committed to doing the right thing. Our department supports and will defend our four police officers, who put their lives on the line every single day without question.”

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