In perusing 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
rulings today, I note it upheld, in a 2-1`decision, a lower court ruling that Ferguson, Mo., police
were not entitled to qualified immunity from a lawsuit by Dorian Johnson,
who was stopped along with Michael Brown Jr.
in an incident that ended in Brown's shooting death and days of upheaval in the city.
Johnson says he was assaulted and suffered emotional pain in the encounter. The city claimed no constitutional violation occurred.
A key point is what the court said about the individual officer's liability (some other liability questions related to the chief and city were unresolved):
Taking the allegations in Johnson’s complaint as true, Officer Wilson stopped Johnson and Brown because they were walking in the middle of the street in violation of a municipal ordinance. Johnson and Brown were walking peacefully down Canfield Drive when Officer Wilson parked directly in their path. Johnson and Brown stopped walking when Officer Wilson parked his car and forcefully struck Brown with his car door. The facts, as alleged, show that Brown and Johnson did not flee from Officer Wilson and did not resist arrest. Based on these facts, it was unreasonable for Officer Wilson to draw his gun and shoot twice, striking Brown in the arm. Thus, Johnson has sufficiently alleged a violation of a constitutional right.
Brown's family has also filed a wrongful death suit in federal court. This one has a long way to go, but this is a point for defendants. Circuit Judge Wollman dissented because he did not believe Johnson had been "seized" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizure. He was just ordered to a sidewalk, Wollman said, and not physically restrained. Opinion here.