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.




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"


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?


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