08 May Euclid police did not use excessive force during arrest of …
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a man who said Euclid police used excessive force during a November 2016 encounter.
Lamar Wright, 38, said in a 2017 lawsuit that officers Kyle Flagg and Vashon Williams approached him when he pulled into a driveway of an East 212th Street home. He said officers used excessive force on him when they pulled out their weapons as they approached his SUV and used a Taser and pepper spray to subdue him before they removed him from the vehicle.
Wright, who lives in East Cleveland, was recovering from surgery at the time and had a colostomy bag attached to his lower abdomen. The officers were wearing street clothes and had their badges on, but Wright said he thought they were robbers at first. He said he pulled into the driveway of an acquaintance to use his cellphone and respond to a text from his girlfriend.
Senior U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent ruled that Wright did not prove his constitutional rights were violated.
The judge wrote in a 25-page opinion that officers had reasonable suspicion to approach Wright. Flagg and Williams were conducting surveillance at a house to monitor suspected drug activity, and Wright had pulled into that house’s driveway prior to the second driveway where he was stopped and arrested, the judge said.
The officers pulled their guns after seeing Wright’s SUV’s reverse tail lights go on, and Nugent wrote officers are allowed to draw weapons if they believe a car is going to run them over.
The judge also wrote that case law says officers who suspect a person is involved in drug activity may also reasonably suspect the person has a weapon.
As for the use of a Taser and pepper spray, the judge ruled that the officers’ suspicions about Wright being involved in drug activity, as well as Wright not following commands to show his hands and instead moving his right hand toward the center console, justified the force, the judge wrote.
Wright told officers at the scene afterward that he was reaching for a cellphone, but later claimed he used the console to push himself up because his movement was restricted by the colostomy bag and the staples in his stomach, according to the opinion.
“Although it turned out that Mr. Wright had no weapons in the car, the Court must view this encounter from the perspective of the officers on scene at the time, and not with the benefit of hindsight,” Nugent wrote.
The judge also dismissed allegations that Wright was subjected to an illegal arrest, saying they had enough evidence to charge him with obstruction. He also dismissed other claims rooted in federal and state laws.
Euclid police captured Wright’s arrest on body camera footage, which Wright’s attorneys released when they filed suit (you can view the footage above).
After the encounter, police took Wright to Euclid Hospital but he refused medical treatment, a police report stated. Wright was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing official business and criminal trespassing, along with other traffic violations. The charges were dropped in June 2017.
Wright’s attorneys Sarah Gelsomino and Jacqueline Greene said in a statement that “this decision gives license to police to detain and brutalize people, in particular people of color, predicated only on baseless suspicion of drug activity.” They said they intend to appeal the decision.
“The Euclid police in this case fabricated a pretext to follow, detain, and attack Lamar Wright, who was not committing any crime nor in possession of any drugs,” the lawyers said. “This kind of aggressive and repressive policing so often leads to civilians getting hurt and killed.”
Attorneys representing the city of Euclid did not respond to an email seeking comment.
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