On The Front Lines
Rutherford Institute Sues Oklahoma Police Over Taser, Chokehold, Use of Excessive Force Against Man Who Complied Fully With Police Orders
MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a Fourth Amendment lawsuit against Oklahoma police who, despite being faced with an African-American man who complied fully with police orders during an arrest, subjected him to excessive force and brutality that included throwing the man to the ground, tasering him, placing him in a chokehold, and rendering him unconscious so that he had to be hospitalized for three days. In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma on behalf of Jeriel Edwards, Rutherford Institute attorneys charge that City of Muskogee police officers used unreasonable and excessive force against Edwards even though Edwards complied with police orders and took no threatening actions toward the officers.
The Rutherford Institute’s complaint in Edwards v. City of Muskogee is available at www.rutherford.org. Affiliate attorney Andrea Worden is 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?”
According to the complaint, 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 police officer who ordered Edwards to put the car in park and provide his identification. A body camera recording of the encounter shows that the officer made the request even though he already knew Edwards’ identity. Edwards complied with the order. The officer then ordered Edwards to get out of the vehicle and remove his hands from his pockets. Again, Edwards complied. The officer instructed Edwards to put his wallet on the center console and unlatch his seat belt. At this time, a second Muskogee police officer arrived at the scene. As Edwards was exiting the vehicle, he was ordered to face the vehicle and place his hands behind his back. The complaint alleges that 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 was transported to the hospital and lost consciousness along the way. He was admitted to the ICU and remained in the hospital until October 28.