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Off-camera action heart of lawsuit against officers

Saturday, July 31, 2010 | 6:26 p.m. CDT
Cadilac Derrick sits in the Columbia Police Department after being arrested on Feb. 24, 2009. Derrick is now suing two officers involved in the arrest. The civil lawsuit, filed on July 22, alleges that the officers beat Derrick. During an interview after he was arrested, Derrick said he got the scrape on his face after falling down.

COLUMBIA — It was a routine traffic stop: The white Subaru was missing a front license plate.

But half a minute after officers approached the driver, the routine became chaotic. A Taser was deployed, a choke hold used, and hands and knees scraped.

A year and a half later, that traffic stop has prompted a complaint to the Columbia Police Department and a lawsuit against the two officers by the driver, Cadilac Derrick.

The lawsuit, filed on July 22 in federal court in Jefferson City by Derrick's attorney, Samuel Trapp, alleges that the officers beat Derrick and acted sadistically. According to Columbia Police Department officers Tim Giger and Jon Logan, Derrick's car smelled of marijuana, and he resisted arrest.

If Derrick wins the civil suit, the officers will have to pay any punitive damages out-of-pocket.

New information presents a more complete picture than has previously been reported about what happened between Derrick and the two officers involved during the Feb. 24, 2009 traffic stop.

What can be seen in the police's dashboard camera video of the incident is not the focus of the lawsuit: Logan asks Derrick to get out of the car, and when Derrick resists, Giger uses his Taser on him, at which point Derrick escapes and runs off camera.

What happens next makes up the heart of the case, and these events are detailed in the lawsuit filed against the two officers, documents from a Columbia Police Department internal investigation, and interviews with sources familiar with the case.

After getting out of the car, Derrick started to run, but tripped over a high curb, Giger said during the department's internal investigation of the incident.

Logan then fell on top of Derrick, and the two officers said they tried to restrain him as he resisted.

Both officers tried a series of blows to pressure points along Derrick's body. Officers are trained in these techniques, but none were successful, said Columbia Police Department Public Information Officer Jessie Haden. During the three-minute scuffle, one of the officers sprayed Mace in Derrick's eye. Giger asked Logan to stun Derrick with his Taser, according to the internal investigation, but Logan's batteries were dead.

Toward the end of the fight, other officers arrived on the scene and Derrick was arrested.

In an interview transcript after the arrest, Giger said he was spent.

"It was the hardest fight I've ever had in the 16 years I've been a cop," he said.

The lawsuit said both officers beat Derrick with their "fists and knees with great force" and that they acted "maliciously and sadistically," intentionally harming Derrick while they pinned him to the ground. During the internal investigation, Giger and Logan said they were simply struggling to control Derrick.

Amanda Reed, Derrick's girlfriend who was in the car with her 3-year-old, describes a similar scene. In her formal complaint to the Police Department, she said the officers punched him in the back and slammed his face on the ground.

"I've never seen anything like this before except for on TV shows," Reed said during a police interview after the incident. "So I'm just kind of shocked and shooken (sic) up."

Photos of Derrick's injuries obtained by the Missourian show mostly small scrapes on different parts of his body and one large scrape on his right cheek.

Giger, however, said he never hit Derrick's face. Derrick, during an interview with Lt. John White, who was leading the internal investigation, said he got the scrape after falling down.

Giger said he put Derrick in a choke hold to try to make him to pass out and acknowledged that he wasn't "certified" to do this.

"I mean it's no formal training; it's just instructed stuff here at the (police department)," Giger said. "It's been talked to me about."

During the internal review process, White found Giger's choke hold improper. Officers aren't allowed to put someone in a choke hold unless they think deadly force is warranted. 

But White's decision was overturned by Police Chief Ken Burton, who has the final say over internal investigations. In his report, White wrote that Burton said the policy is clear, but Burton felt Giger had no other option in this case.

When reached, Burton said he could not comment on the issue because of the pending civil litigation.

No marijuana was found in the car after Derrick was arrested, according to Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Haigh. Two knives were found on the ground next to the driver's side door, authorities said, but little is known about the size of the knives or where they came from.

Derrick was charged with resisting arrest, but Boone County prosecutors dropped the charge on July 15. Less than a week later, Trapp filed the suit against the officers. 

In an unrelated incident, Derrick pleaded guilty to third-degree assault in 2005 in addition to receiving two traffic tickets in separate stops, according to Missouri Case.net.

In Trapp's lawsuit, it argues that Giger's use of a Taser was unjustified. Between January 2002 and March 2009, Giger used his Taser second most among officers in the department, according to a previous Missourian report.

City Counselor Fred Boeckmann said the city has a self-insurance fund to help defend itself and its employees against lawsuits. The fund also pays for damages. Trapp hasn't included the city in the lawsuit yet, only the two officers.

Should a judge rule against the officers, Boeckmann said the city would likely cover actual damages — money for Derrick's losses — but not punitive damages, intended to punish the officers.

 


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Comments

Carlos Sanchez August 1, 2010 | 11:17 a.m.

He clearly was resisting arrest and at the point with the officers fully engaged they had no way of knowing of he had a gun anywhere near him.

The officers did the right thing. If you do not want to get Tasered do not resist arrest and comply with the officers requests. How hard is it to be civil and cooperate?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 1, 2010 | 12:00 p.m.

At no point did the officers claim he was under arrest, although he was more than likely lawfully detained. If he had resisted arrest, why didn't the prosecutor try him with that charge? Both parties could have acted a lot better in this encounter.

(Report Comment)

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