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Monday, October 29, 2012

Suit filed over police beating of Ferneau customer

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 1:14 PM

AFTER THE BEATING: Chris Erwin in photograph after his arrest last year.
  • AFTER THE BEATING: Chris Erwin in photograph after his arrest last year.

AFTER THE BEATING: Chris Erwin in photograph after his arrest last year.
  • AFTER THE BEATING: Chris Erwin in photograph after his arrest last year.
Chris Erwin and Blake Mitchell have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Little Rock Police Lt. David Hudson, Police Chief Stuart Thomas, the city of Little Rock and Donnie Ferneau, a former Hillcrest restaurant owner, over their arrest at the restaurant Oct. 29.

Erwin was beaten by Hudson, employed by Ferneau's as a private security guard, seemingly for objecting to Hudson's order that he leave the restaurant. He was charged with trespass, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Mitchell wasn't beaten, but also was arrested for obstructing government operations, trespass, disorderly conduct and public intoxication. The charges were dismissed in Sherwood District Court after police failed to comply with the defense's efforts to obtain records about Hudson's past disciplinary history.

The men filed complaints with the department on Hudson's actions. The lawsuit said they had had no response from the Police Department.

Here's the full lawsuit, filed by Keith Hall and Erin Cassinelli.

The suit says the actions were taken without probable cause and cites a laundry list of failings on the part of the officer, the department that trained him and the restaurant that employed him. The lawsuit also raises an issue that exists in another pending lawsuit over actions by Little Rock police acting as private security in the death of Eugene Ellison.

At all relevant times, including a period of years prior to October 29, 2012, Defendant Thomas knowingly, and/or with reckless or callous indifference to the constitutional rights of the citizens of Little Rock, permitted and/or maintained a widespread custom and practice of permitting acts of excessive force and unlawful arrest by LRPD officers by covering up allegations of police excessive force and/or performing meaningless internal affairs investigations intended to exonerate officers against whom such allegations were charged. This pattern of police misconduct is so pervasive as to constitute a ‘custom or usage’ with the force of law.

The customs and practices described above were the moving force behind violations of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights committed by Defendant Hudson and proximately caused Plaintiffs’ personal injuries, economic injuries, pain, suffering and other injuries.

As I wrote this week, Little Rock police use of force needs a thorough review, lawsuits or no lawsuits.

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