Check out this brand new footage from Cabot, Arkansas – yet another Walmart video – submitted to me by this man’s lawyer. Walmart calls the cops and reports a non-crime. Usually they do this without ever asking the individual to leave; they just call the cops. Then the cops show up and likewise don’t ask the person to leave, but instead, they demand an ID in the absence of any legitimate suspicion of criminal behavior.
So no crime has been committed, but the person gets detained. As I’ve explained numerous times, what is required for police to detain someone against their will? Is it enough that a Walmart employee doesn’t like the way you look, or something about you? No. Police must have reasonable suspicion to detain you. When you are forced to stop and talk to them and provide ID, that’s a detainment. Reasonable suspicion is required.
On March 10, the West Virginia State Police Special Response Team executed a search warrant in McDowell County, West Virginia and shot 21 year old Darius Lester multiple times. Yesterday I went and met Darius and his family and examined the scene of the shooting. The truth is far from what the state police gave to the news media. Let me tell you what really appears to have happened. By the way, this is the same state police currently all over the news for being exposed as completely untrustworthy, as I just detailed in a recent video.
Here’s what was given to the news media:
One man was injured Friday during an officer involved shooting while troopers with the West Virginia State Police were serving a search warrant.
At about 5:45 a.m., members of the West Virginia State Police SRT acting in cooperation with the FBI served a search warrant at the residence of Jeremy Lester….
Upon entry, members were confronted by Darius Lester, 22 of Big Sandy, who was armed and attempted to attack the members with a hammer. Members engaged the suspect and shots were fired stopping the threat, Maddy said.
First aid was administered on scene until EMS arrived. Darius Lester was transported to Raleigh General Hospital for his injuries.
Here’s what really happened:
Darius had been asleep on the couch in the home’s living room, where he liked to sleep. Darius was unarmed at the time he was shot and was still on his bed, as indicated by the pool of blood on and underneath the couch where he was sleeping. Darius has no criminal record. He was not under arrest. He was not suspected of having committed any crime. He was merely sleeping on the couch in a house where police were executing a search warrant unrelated to him. Darius works as a coal truck driver. He works the night shift. He had just gotten off work at around 4 a.m. He then went to sleep shortly after getting home. Sometime after 5 a.m. the state police SWAT team showed up. Everyone was asleep, including Darius.
I’ve already examined the actual search warrant that formed the basis of the raid. It did not provide for a no knock entry. It also contained no allegations that anyone inside the home was armed or dangerous. In fact, from my understanding, nobody who lived in the home even had a criminal record at all.
Law enforcement was there to execute a search warrant based on the illegal possession of explicit photographs allegedly downloaded by Darius’ uncle. There were no allegations alleged in the warrant application that executing this particular search warrant posed any threat of danger to law enforcement. So why call out the state police’s SWAT team, the SRT? The allegations against the uncle solely pertained to downloading illegal photographs. There was nothing about violence or physical danger to police officers executing a search warrant. It’s my understanding that the uncle had no prior criminal history. Nor were there any allegations at all against Darius.
The press release said that “upon entry” they encountered Darius, who had a hammer. Well, the photographs I took yesterday show where Darius was when they encountered him: asleep on the couch in the living room, which is quite a ways from where they made entry. They would have made entry and rounded the corner into the living room before encountering him and waking him up, flashlights in his eyes, probably startled and confused.
The photographs of the blood stains show where the violence occurred – right on the bed/couch where Darius had been sleeping.
Why would Darius attack a SWAT team with a hammer? That’s absurd. He wasn’t under arrest. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Perhaps it’s more likely that once they realized they shot an unarmed man, who wasn’t even the target of their investigation, they grabbed a nearby hammer and came up with a cover story for why they shot him. Why would a SWAT team in full body armor be in fear for their lives of a guy, with no criminal record or charges, allegedly holding a hammer – especially one in his own bed. Are they that afraid? I mean, really? A hammer?
I’ve dealt with the West Virginia State Police SRT team before. I had a case in federal court in the Northern District of West Virginia – up in Doddridge County, where the state police SRT busted in on an elderly guy, who likewise had done nothing wrong (they were looking for a third party fugitive who used to work for him) and they literally scared the guy to death.
They put him in handcuffs and made him stand in his kitchen. The old man, in poor health, began having trouble breathing and asked to be released from his handcuffs. The tough guy state trooper, wearing full body armor and holding a machine gun (literally a machine gun, as it was full auto) refused, because as he explained to me when I deposed him, there were officer safety concerns, because they were in a kitchen. And there were sharp knives around. I’m not even joking. The man died and they just put him no the floor and began to take crime scene photos.
That was the case where part of the settlement was that the West Virginia State Police agreed to retrain their entire agency about the constitutional requirement to knock and announce prior to busting in someone’s house on a search warrant execution.
This seems awfully similar. I mean, what’s the point of having a SWAT team if you don’t get to use it from time to time, am I right? In my prior case there were, I believe, 17 different SWAT guys at the scene. I wonder how many they had here, that were so afraid of an innocent guy with a hammer? Even if he did have a hammer, perhaps if you didn’t bust in in the darkness and startle the guy out of a deep sleep, he wouldn’t have grabbed a hammer. Though I highly doubt he ever did. The evidence at the scene points to the gunshots occurring while Darius was still on his bed.
What really happened? Could it have been an accident? A mistake? Maybe they thought he was the uncle and nobody would care, given the allegations against him? One thing’s for sure. If there had been body cam, we wouldn’t have to speculate.
There’s no doubt that the case law would justify the police shooting someone coming at them with a hammer. There have been numerous similar cases with those allegations. The question is, did that even happen?
As discussed in some of the recent state police scandal videos, one of the allegations against the top brass of the state police is that they make the lower tier guys wear and use body cams, while the important people don’t have to. All the street level state troopers now have and use body cams. Why would the state police’s SWAT team not be given body cams? That would make it really easy. Does the footage show a guy running at them with a hammer and refusing to drop it? Or does it not? If the situation is so important and dangerous that they need to use the SWAT team, why does it not justify the use of body cams?
I’ll go ahead and speculate that they chose not to use them just in case they end up shooting someone like this. Then they can just grab a nearby object and say the guy was holding it, and refused to drop it. The South Park “he’s coming right at us” defense. Then, when it gets to court, they’re wearing their uniforms and fancy hats and they hope that the jurors will take their word over the victim’s word. That should be unnecessary. It should have been caught on video. Maybe it was, but the preliminary information suggests that there is no body cam footage.
This is yet another example of a completely unnecessary shooting of an innocent unarmed citizen by our government. For those of you with the thin blue line stickers and all the pro-Constitution stickers at the same time, this is your government. This is who is going to come to your house and confiscate your guns when the time comes. This is how they will treat you as well. NRA sticker on your truck? You better believe they’ll show up to your house at 5 am also, at a time when they think you’ll be asleep. They’ll be trigger happy too, since they’ll have been briefed on how much of a gun nut you are. This is where we are in this country. This is the road we’re headed down.
Then, after your government shoots you, what do they do next? Well, if you survive, guess what? They charge you with a crime to cover their exposure to a civil lawsuit. That’s exactly what they have done to Darius here. They’ve charged him with a felony, for allegedly attempting to harm this poor vulnerable SWAT team with a ball peen hammer. And he was so successful at it that no officers were even injured. To the contrary, the perpetrated was shot multiple times, including two rounds to the chest.
Why do they do this? Because any subsequent civil rights lawsuit is going to be bound by any factual findings contained in the underlying criminal case. So if they convict Darius of attempting to hit a police officer with a hammer, that fact will have to be taken as true by the federal court in the subsequent civil lawsuit.
Also, don’t worry, the West Virginia State Police is investigating themselves. This is the same agency that is currently all over the news for literally refusing to properly investigate themselves.
Again, this is a poor area of West Virginia that has for years been neglected by politicians. Corruption has been rampant in this area for years. That’s why it’s important to bring attention to what’s happening and watch very carefully.
Video footage has just been released showing misconduct by a notorious former sheriff in Clayton County, Georgia. That footage resulted in his conviction for federal civil rights violations, for which he is about to face sentencing. In other words, here’s yet another rare, but great, example of law enforcement being held accountable for civil rights violations in the best possible way – criminal prosecution.
Victor Hill, the former sheriff of Clayton County, Georgia, was charged with seven counts of willfully depriving detainees at the Clayton County Jail of their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable force by law enforcement officers. Specifically, the grand jury who indicted him alleged that Hill caused the seven victims to be strapped into restraint chairs at the jail without any legitimate nonpunitive governmental purpose and for a period exceeding that justified by any legitimate nonpunitive governmental purpose. The grand jury further alleged that these offenses caused physical pain and resulted in bodily injury to the victims.
The trial is already over. On October 26, 2022, a jury convicted Hill on six of the seven counts. As to each of those six guilty counts, the jury further found that the offense caused physical pain and resulted in bodily injury to 6 different victims.
The reason you’re seeing this now is because some of that footage was just released. The released footage shows the restraint of Robert Arnold, who was booked into the jail on February 25, 2020. He was accused of assaulting two women inside a Forest Park grocery store earlier that month.
“What was you doing in Clayton County that day?” Sheriff Hill asked Arnold.
“It’s a democracy, sir. It’s the United States,” Arnold replied.
“No, it’s not. Not in my county,” responded Sheriff Hill.
When Arnold challenged Sheriff Hill on his right “to a fair and speedy trial,” Hill told sheriff’s office employees to bring him a restraint chair.
“Roll that chair ’round here,” ordered Sheriff Hill. “Roll that chair ’round here.”
According to a 2018 policy approved by Hill, restraint chairs “may be used by security staff to provide safe containment of an inmate exhibiting violent or uncontrollable behavior and to prevent self-injury, injury to others or property damage when other control techniques are not effective.”
Prosecutors also introduced surveillance videos from inside the jail that showed Sheriff Hill’s interactions with Glenn Howell on April 27, 2020. Howell, a landscaper, had a dispute with a Clayton County Sheriff’s Office deputy about payment for work that Howell did on the deputy’s property. Sheriff Hill called Howell to try to intervene and the conversation became heated. When Howell tried to contact Hill again, Hill obtained a warrant for Howell’s arrest on a charge of harassing communications. Howell turned himself in a few days later.
In the surveillance video, Howell is pictured sitting on a bench for several minutes. He appears to follow commands as an intake officer searches him and processes his belongings. At one point, prosecutors pointed out, jail staff left Howell alone in the intake area—something attorneys argued they would not have done if Howell was a threat. Footage shows Sheriff Hill arriving about an hour later and speaking to Howell in the hallway. Less than a minute into the conversation, Howell is placed into a waiting restraint chair.
The sheriff’s office restraint chair policy explains that officers should remove someone from the device “when they have determined that there is no longer a threat to self or others, or the inmate must be transported to another facility.” Multiple witnesses, however, testified that when Sheriff Hill ordered someone into a restraint chair, it was understood that person was not to be released for four hours, the maximum allowed under the policy.
The Michigan State Police has now criminally charged one of their own for physically detaining and abusing a man who was walking down the side of a road. According to the trooper’s own report, he accosted the man for not walking on the sidewalk, but instead walking along the edge of the public road. The man had committed no crime. When the trooper attempted to charge him with obstruction, the prosecutors refused to proceed.
On Sept. 4, 2022, Michigan State Trooper Paul Arrowood and his partner were on patrol when they encountered a male subject walking in the roadway on Webber Street near Julius Street in Saginaw, Michigan. Contact was made with the subject and the troopers attempted to physically detain him. Arrowood took the male subject to the ground, striking him with a closed fist multiple times, causing visible injuries.
Saginaw County District Judge Terry L. Clark on the afternoon of Friday, March 3, arraigned MSP Trooper Paul E. Arrowood, 43, on single counts of common law offense or misconduct in office and assault and battery. The former is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, while the latter is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.
“The actions of Tpr. Paul Arrowood fall outside of MSP policy and procedure and they constitute an unwarranted use of force,” stated Col. Joe Gasper, director of the MSP. “The members of the Michigan State Police are committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect, and we will tolerate no less. When we fall short of this standard, we will hold our members accountable.”
He is apparently on unpaid leave pending the results of the criminal case.
One of the excessive force cases we’ve been following just settled, and you may or may not be surprised at the settlement amount. This is the one in Kentucky where a man was arrested inside his parents’ home and was beaten – not terribly – but still beaten, by two Kentucky State Troopers. Then the dad goes to get his cell phone and starts filming. The troopers then took the phone and deleted the footage. Well, as sometimes happens, the parents had interior surveillance cameras that the cops did not know about. My buddy Chris Wiest files a lawsuit against them; puts them under oath at their depositions, and asks them about it. Both troopers denied striking the guy. Unfortunately for them, they had been caught on camera.
On April 9, 2020, Kentucky State Troopers James Cameron Wright, Thomas Czartorski, and a third trooper, Kevin Dreisbach, went to the Hornbacks’ home in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, to arrest 29-year-old Alex Hornback for a missed appearance in Jefferson District Court. Hornback’s mother and father met them at the door and led Wright and Czartorski to the basement, where their son was, while Dreisbach covered the rear of the house.
Czartorski and Wright testified in their January 2021 depositions that they had a relatively calm interaction with Hornback, despite taking him to the floor, and that they didn’t use any other force or strike him.The Hornbacks’ lawyer later released a home-security video contradicting the troopers’ statements. The video showed Wright grabbing Hornback around the neck and slinging him to the floor, though Hornback was not visibly resisting. The video also showed Czartorski striking Hornback four times on the legs with his flashlight. Wright hit Hornback twice in the back with his right forearm and appeared to have his left knee on Hornback’s neck, pushing his face into the floor. Hornback did not suffer any serious injuries.
Can the police pepper spray a handcuffed man just because he’s running his mouth? Here’s some brand new exclusive footage from a federal civil rights lawsuit just filed by my friend, Kentucky civil rights attorney Chris Wiest. We had a great discussion about this footage, the lawsuit he just filed on behalf of this guy, as well as some general advice he has when potential clients are interacting with police officers.
New bodycam footage just released out of Raleigh, North Carolina, where I once worked as a prosecutor, showing police officers encountering, detaining and using force on Darryl Tyree Williams on January 17, 2023. That use of force, involving multiple uses of tasers, by multiple officers, resulted in the death of Mr. Williams.
What I want to focus on is not the actual tasing part. You know how that goes. But rather, whether it was constitutional for him to have been detained and handcuffed in the first place. Nobody had reported a crime. Rather, the officers were allegedly engaged in what they called “proactive patrols” of business parking lots in a location they claim “has a history of repeat calls for service for drugs, weapons, and other criminal violations.”
This is an important constitutional issue. When did the seizure take place? When were Fourth Amendment protections first triggered here? It depends on the facts, and in this case, the footage.
You have two different scenarios for these types of police encounters:
1) consensual encounters, which are theoretically voluntary in nature – meaning that the suspects are free to leave at any time. This does not trigger Fourth Amendment protections; and then you have
2) a detainment, which does trigger Fourth Amendment protections. For a lawful detainment, officers must have reasonable suspicion of a crime. That did not exist, according to the report, until after the door was opened.
So, if the occupants in the car were already detained prior to the officer observing the open container and marijuana, they were being illegally detained from the very beginning. The issue here is a factual one.
As a general matter, police officers are free to approach and question individuals without necessarily effecting a seizure. Rather, a person is seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment “[o]nly when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen.” Id. (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n.16 (1968)).
Such a seizure can be said to occur when, after considering the totality of the circumstances, the Court concludes that “a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.” Id. (quoting United States v. Gray, 883 F.2d 320, 322 (4th Cir. 1989)).
Similarly, when police approach a person at a location that they do not necessarily wish to leave, the appropriate question is whether that person would feel free to “terminate the encounter.” See Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 436 (1991). “[T]he free-to-leave standard is an objective test, not a subjective one.” United States v. Analla, 975 F.2d 119, 124 (4th Cir. 1992).5… (United States v. Nestor (N.D. W.Va. 2018)).
These are relevant facts to examine:
T]he number of police officers present during the encounter, whether they were in uniform or displayed their weapons, whether they touched the defendant, whether they attempted to block his departure or restrain his movement, whether the officers’ questioning was non-threatening, and whether they treated the defendant as though they suspected him of “illegal activity rather than treating the encounter as ‘routine’ in nature.”… (United States v. Nestor (N.D. W.Va. 2018))
It’s happened yet again – this time in Ohio – where police arrive to a trespassing complaint at a business (this time at a McDonald’s) and instead of allowing the person to leave the business, they instead detain and forcibly ID the individual. Do police officers have the right to detain someone under these circumstances? More importantly, do they have NEED to do so?
An incident that led to an officer hitting a woman multiple times Monday began as a dispute over missing cheese on a Big Mac. Butler Twp. Sgt. Todd Stanley and Off. Tim Zellers responded at 4:20 p.m. to a call about a disorderly customer at the McDonald’s at 3411 York Commons Blvd., and on arrival, officers spoke to Latinka Hancock, according to a police report.
When the woman refused to provide her ID, the officers engaged in a brutal and violent use of force against her, which one customer inside the McDonald’s caught on video:
There is a video showing a female cop suddenly pull her pistol and point it at a driver’s head during a routine traffic stop. Then there was a subsequent video providing commentary and advice about the situation. However, the information was incorrect. There’s unfortunately a lot of misinformation floating around about the rights of vehicle occupants during traffic stops. It’s important to know your actual rights and not misinformation that could really cause you some serious problems.
What are your basic constitutional rights at a traffic stop?
The Fourth Amendment prohibits police officers from prolonging a traffic stop beyond the time necessary to investigate (and write a ticket for) a traffic violation unless the officers have reasonable suspicion that the stopped vehicle’s occupants are engaging in other crimes. Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348, 354-56 (2015).
Officers may detain the driver only for the time necessary to complete the tasks associated with the reason for the stop. The Supreme Court has provided a list of acceptable tasks that are connected generally to safety and driver responsibility:
Officers will usually question a driver about the traffic infraction; they will run the driver’s license plate; they will request and review the vehicle’s registration and insurance; they will check for outstanding warrants; and lastly they will write a ticket. Officers also commonly question drivers about their travel plans. So long as they do so during the time that they undertake the traffic-related tasks for the infraction that justifies the stop (Arizona v. Johnson), officers may also ask questions about whether the driver has drugs or weapons in the car, or even walk a drug-sniffing dog around the car (Illinois v. Caballes). These unrelated tasks turn a reasonable stop into an unreasonable seizure if it “prolongs” the stop. Officers may not avoid this rule by “slow walking” the traffic-related aspects of the stop to get more time to investigate other potential crimes.
Once the traffic-related basis for the stop ends (or reasonably should have ended), the officer must justify any further “seizure” on a reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing those other crimes. See Hernandez v. Boles (6th Cir. 2020).
Additionally, “a police officer may as a matter of course order the driver of a lawfully stopped car to exit his vehicle.” Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 410, 117 S.Ct. 882, 137 L.Ed.2d 41 (1997) (citing Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 98 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed.2d 331 (1977) (per curiam)). That rule, the justification for which is officer safety, extends to passengers, as well. Wilson, 519 U.S. at 414–15, 117 S.Ct. 882. (United States v. Vaughan, 700 F.3d 705 (4th Cir. 2012)).
As for the 9th Circuit, where this encounter took place, “pointing guns at persons who are compliant and present no danger is a constitutional violation.” Thompson v. Rahr, 885 F.3d 582 (9th Cir. 2018) (citing Baird v. Renbarger , 576 F.3d 340, 346 (7th Cir. 2009)).
We do not discount the concern for officer safety when facing a potentially volatile situation. But where the officers have an unarmed felony suspect under control, where they easily could have handcuffed the suspect while he was sitting on the squad car, and where the suspect is not in close proximity to an accessible weapon, a gun to the head constitutes excessive force.
Breaking news out of federal court in South Carolina, where a federal jury has just awarded a $550,000 verdict against a former Richland County Sheriff’s deputy, as well as the sheriff’s department itself.
Here are the relevant case documents, including the complaint, jury instructions, verdict form, as well as the full deposition transcript of one of the officers: