On The Front Lines
Rutherford Institute Challenges Court Ruling That Trouble Understanding Police Orders Constitutes Resistance, Justifies Use of Excessive Force
DENVER, Colo. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have appealed a federal court’s ruling that refused to hold police responsible for brutalizing an African-American man who, despite complying with police orders during an arrest, was subjected to excessive force and brutality, including being thrown to the ground, tasered, and placed in a chokehold that rendered him unconscious and required his hospitalization for three days.
In a brief filed in Edwards v. Harmon on behalf of Jeriel Edwards, Institute attorneys are asking the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the dismissal of Edwards’ Fourth Amendment lawsuit and allow a jury to determine whether police used excessive and unreasonable force upon Edwards. The brief argues that, as shown by dash cam video of the arrest, Edwards was not resisting and was subdued at the time he was tased and subjected to a chokehold, making the officers’ actions a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Affiliate attorney Wyatt Worden of The Worden Law Firm and David Lee of Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis are assisting in the defense of Edwards’ Fourth Amendment rights.
“If you ask police what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with law enforcement, they will tell you to comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “The problem is what to do when compliance is not enough. How can you maintain the illusion of freedom when daily, Americans are being shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, challenge an order or merely exist?”
On October 25, 2016, Jeriel Edwards was sitting in his car in the parking lot of a Muskogee Wendy’s restaurant when he was approached by a City of Muskogee, Okla., police officer who ordered Edwards to put the car in park and provide his identification. Body and dashboard camera video of the encounter shows that the officer made the request even though he already knew Edwards’ identity. The officer then ordered Edwards to get out of the vehicle and remove his hands from his pockets. Edwards complied with all the officer’s orders. At this time, a second Muskogee police officer arrived at the scene. As Edwards exited the vehicle, he was ordered to face the vehicle and place his hands behind his back. At this point one of the officers grabbed Edwards’ right arm while the other officer shoved him into the corner of the car door, followed by the officers aggressively grabbing Edwards’ upper body and pushing his head into the corner of the car door as they attempted to place his hands behind his back. One officer then told Edwards to get to the ground, but before he could do so, the officers slammed him to the pavement. As the officers pushed Edwards’ head and neck to the ground, they also placed a knee on his body to pin him to the ground. Edwards repeatedly asked why the officers were abusing him, but got no answer. Instead, the first officer fired a taser at Edwards as he lay on the ground. A third officer arrived on the scene and made two striking motions at Edwards, the impact of which can be heard on the body camera video. A fourth officer arrived at the scene and put Edwards in a chokehold. As the four officers dragged Edwards to the ground, another joined the fray and held Edwards down by digging his knee into his body. Edwards lost consciousness en route to the hospital, where he was admitted to the ICU. Despite this brutality, the trial court dismissed Edwards’ excessive force lawsuit against the police.