It took four hours for a federal jury to determine that an Oregon state trooper violated a man’s civil rights by kicking him in the chest after chasing him down in an unmarked patrol car and ramming into the man’s motorcycle, knocking him down and leaving him with a fractured rib and broken clavicle.
Justin Wilkins was awarded $180,000 in what his attorney described as “a message from the community.”
But Oregon state police expressed disappointment, saying officer safety gives cops the right to kick and pull guns on citizens at a moment’s whim because every encounter is a potential “life-or-death” situation.
According to the Register-Guard:
State police, in a statement released Thursday night, said the agency “is disappointed with the (trial) outcome and feels the actions of our troopers clearly did not violate established procedures or tactics. In situations like these, officers have milliseconds to make what may be life-or-death decisions and those officers should be shielded from the liability of civil damages.
Oregon State Police Captain Rob Edwards got a pass from the jury about pulling his gun Wilkins, determining it did not violate his civil rights, even though there was no indication that Edwards posed a danger to him.
Edwards’ dash cam video shows that he was probably angered that Wilkins had passed him and continued riding, even though the cop was apparently trying to pull him over with his emergency lights, which are embedded in the Camaro’s grill.
Wilkins had come to a complete stop at a traffic light, which shows he was not purposely eluding Edwards, he just didn’t notice him through his small rear view mirror. He also said his helmet kept him from hearing the sirens.
The video shows that it was not until the cop rammed him with the patrol car, knocking him down, that Wilkins first took notice of him.
When Wilkins stood back up, the cop ordered him to get down, which he was about to do, but Edwards kicked him anyway.
But Edwards had an excuse for all of that as well.
Edwards acknowledged in his testimony that Wilkens had begun to comply with his commands when he landed the kick, but said he was unable to stop the kick because he “already had the muscles fired” in his right leg.
Edwards also said he accidentally “bumped” the back end of Wilkens’ motorcycle as a result of possible “brake fade” — a term used to describe the loss of braking power because of overheating. But Regan reminded jurors in a closing argument that a brake expert testified at trial that brake fade rarely occurs in modern brake systems.
He also did not report the use-of-force incident and claims he did not know the dash cam was recording.
The incident took place August 2, 2012 when Edwards was a lieutenant. He has since been promoted to captain.
So that’s their message to the community.