Police officers now facing lawsuit for using “excessive force” against a truck driver

Immunity for three police officers accused of using excessive force against a truck driver has been revoked following a federal appeals court judge ruling.  The initial altercation occurred in Homewood, Alabama on May 23rd, 2014, but the new ruling was reached earlier this week, on October 20th, 2020.  According to AL News, truck driver Moses Stryker was making a late-night delivery to a Walmart when a woman blocked his truck with her vehicle and accused him of damaging her car. 

By Stryker’s account, police officer Jason Davis responded to the scene and started to get angry when Stryker pulled out his camera in order to get pictures of the incident for his company. Davis then pointed his gun at Stryker and tased him in the back. When Stryker attempted to escape by climbing back into the cab of his truck, the two struggled and Davis ended up breaking Stryker’s jaw. 

Stryker was able to make it back into the cab of his truck and lock the door, so Davis called for backup before breaking open the truck window with a baton and attempting to pull Stryker out of the cab while using pepper spray on him.  Officers Brian Waid and Frederick Blake then arrived on the scene and aided in pulling Stryker out of the truck before all three officers proceeded to kick and beat the truck driver.  However, by officer Davis’s account, Stryker became angry when Davis informed him that another law enforcement agency would be handling the accident investigation and attempted to elbow the officer in the head.

Davis says that the attempted elbow is what prompted the use of the taser, and that Waid and Blake had to assist him in forcibly removing Stryker from the truck cab as he fought against the officers.  It should also be noted that Davis turned off the dash cam in the patrol car prior to the incident, so the encounter was not captured on police video.  Stryker was charged with assault, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and failure to comply with a lawful order.

The assault and disorderly conduct charges were dropped, and a jury acquitted him of resisting arrest, but he was found guilty for ‘failing to comply.’ Stryker then sued the city of Homewood for the unfortunate encounter. Initially, a district court judge dismissed the case on the grounds that the police officers had ‘qualified immunity,’ which protects them from being sued for ‘doing their job.’ Now though, the federal appeals court judges have ruled that the officers violated Stryker’s constitutional rights, eliminating their qualified immunity. 

“Moses Stryker was tased, beaten and left with a broken jaw after a routine accident investigation by the City of Homewood spiraled out of control,” according to the ruling by judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Under Stryker’s version of the facts, he was returning to his truck with his back to Officer Davis when Davis shot him in the back with the taser” the judges wrote. “He denies ever attempting to elbow the officer and testified that it would have been ‘impossible’ for the officer to have thought he was trying to hit him.”

“Under Stryker’s version of events, the initial use of the taser by Officer Davis was objectively unreasonable,” according to the ruling. “Moreover, at the time of the incident it was clearly established that using violent force generally, and a taser specifically, on a compliant, nonaggressive, and nonthreatening misdemeanant violates the Fourth Amendment.”

Stryker will now be able to proceed with the lawsuit against the city of Homewood and the officers involved in the incident.

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