All across the country people are waking up to the issue of excessive use of force by police. Several instances of overt police violence have made headlines, with many encounters ending in preventable deaths. Although excessive use of force may violate the Fourth Amendment, victims of excessive police force may only pursue civil charges against arresting officers and possibly the municipality that employs them. Though the officers may have done wrong, they generally do not face criminal charges for using excessive force when placing a person under arrest. A victim’s only hope for justice is to seek damages in the form of a civil lawsuit.

Locally, police have been accused of using excessive force right here in Oregon. Two years ago in south Eugene, a mother panicked and called a non-emergency hotline in the hopes of receiving help from a crisis intervention team when her son experienced a psychotic break. What happened next led to a civil battle between Eugene law enforcement officers and the family they failed after an encounter with a mentally ill teenager went horribly wrong.

Insufficient Support for Mentally Ill Prompts Police Use of Force

Unable to control her son, Ayisha Elliott called a non-emergency crisis intervention hotline to receive support. Quinton Richardson-Brown was in the grip of a psychiatric episode. Expecting a group of personnel to help her access the appropriate services, four police officers arrived at her door. To say they were of little help is an understatement.

“Instead, the police came and beat the hell out of both of them.” Attorney Brian Michael described the scene to the jury in U.S. District Court when making his opening statement. When police walked in, he said, Elliott’s son, a 19-year-old university student when the episode took place, was handcuffed when officer Matthew Stropko used a stun gun to subdue him. When the gun failed to take effect, the officer used his fist to strike him in the face.

Ms. Elliott also claimed to be a victim of excessive use of force. She had sustained injuries after being thrown to the ground on her deck by Eugene police Sgt. Bill Solesbee, who jumped on her back and shoved her head into the floor. Elliott, a caseworker for the Department of Human Services, was later arrested and booked for interfering with police. The prosecutors later waived charges and she was released.

Before she even called police, Ms. Elliott had attempted to place her son in the psych unit of a local hospital, which she claimed refused to accept him. She had no choice but to call the crisis intervention hotline. What she didn’t know was that her ex-husband had previously called 911. He thought her son was choking her after hearing her speak over the phone. Elliott assured the jury that her son had not been physically violent but was experiencing delusions.

City Defends Police Actions

City attorney Ben Miller representing the three defendants, argued that Elliott’s son was reluctant to stay at the hospital when she attempted to check him in. Miller assured jurors that the officers had only used relatively minimal levels of force to restrain the plaintiffs when the son provoked officer Stropko. He urged that the officers did their best to aid Elliott but remained aware of the risks domestic issues often present.

Miller then educated jurors on the fact that police do have the right to use a reasonable amount of force to conduct their responsibilities. He claimed that arresting Ms. Elliott was not a mistake, as she disobeyed the officers’ commands, regardless of her intentions. This is a punishable offense as it could have put the officers or herself in danger.

After the ordeal, a police officer did escort the teenager to the hospital and made sure he was checked into the psychiatric unit. Quinton Richardson-Brown spent a month there and at a later date testified that he had no recollection of the encounter.

Police are public officials who are obliged to protect and serve their communities. In cases of excessive force, it is often difficult to hold officers accountable for wrongdoing; however, those who are subjected to excessive force may have a chance at recovering compensation for the damages they endure at the hands of police and the city which employs them. With the help of a police excessive force attorney in Portland, it may be possible to hold the responsible parties accountable for your injustice.

Learn more about issues impacting safety, well-being, and justice at rizklaw.com. To schedule a confidential appointment to discuss a claim with an attorney, call (503) 245-5677 or email info@rizklaw.com.