Police accused of excessive force in small crime

The case seemed simple: Solve the misdemeanor theft of a $14.99 phone charger. Three years later, it could be costly to the city of Sturgis.
AP Wire
May 12, 2013

 

A federal appeals court said Friday that a jury should decide if officers used excessive force against a young man suspected of shoplifting and his mother when they entered a home without a warrant.

"Shoplifting of this sort offers no reason by itself for banging a suspect's head against a wall," said a three-judge panel at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court said the officers aren't immune to a lawsuit, affirming a decision by U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist in Grand Rapids. The ruling means the case likely will go to trial or be settled.

In 2010, a Walgreens store in Sturgis, 50 miles south of Kalamazoo, reported the theft of a phone charger. The package was found in the store, but the part of the charger that attaches to the phone was cut off. Charles Smith, then 20, was confronted by a store manager but declined to stay and walked home.

Two officers, Mark Stoneburner and Damon Knapp, arrived at Smith's home. Stoneburner entered the home and pulled Smith outside to a deck. Smith alleges that his head was pressed against a wall as the officers arrested him and bent his body over a railing.

"Dueling accounts create a question of fact about whether Charles resisted arrest," the appeals court said.

Lawyers for the officers argued that they may have needed to get into the home without a warrant to prevent possible destruction of evidence. The court wasn't impressed.

"Tossing the charger out the window would have accomplished little. This was not Venice. It was canal-free Sturgis, Michigan," Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote.

Sturgis Public Safety Director Dave Northrop said the court's decision was a "shock." He said the officers didn't violate Smith's rights.

And the missing phone charger? The case was closed when Smith pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor, disturbing the peace.

 

Comments

zwesterhouse

Young person is mostly likely a "cry baby" The police up here in Michigan from what I have are very consistent and professional. But Lord help ya if you go to a southern state. A person commits a crime down yonder or talks back to a southern sheriff - a baton will go across the the accused criminals teeth. Justice in a Southern state can be swift and brutal. Hence the movies "Walking Tall" and "Mississippi Burning" "Macon County Line" and "Chickasaw County Sheriff"

michiglen

I am curious what "Dueling accounts...." really means?

Did they have 10 paces with pistols....

Was it a shouting match....?

Or is the basis of all this a normal arrest procedure that the offender (or family) wasn't used to?

 

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.