STLCC Instructor Body-Slammed by Cop Files Lawsuit

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Steve Taylor made national headlines after being bodyslammed by a St. Louis cop last October. - COURTESY OF SEIU LOCAL 1/STEVE TAYLOR
Steve Taylor made national headlines after being bodyslammed by a St. Louis cop last October.
The math instructor who was body-slammed by a St. Louis police officer in October has filed suit against the cop, St. Louis Community College and the vice chairman of its board of trustees.

Steve Taylor, 53, made national headlines over the incident, which was captured on video at a board of trustee meeting. The video shows Taylor approaching the podium to object to Vice Chairman Rodney Gee's instruction that audience members not applaud those speaking. But before Taylor could get close, a St. Louis police officer identified in the suit as Robert Caples grabs him from behind.

As Taylor staggers forward, Caples drops him swiftly to the floor. Taylor says in the suit he suffered traumatic brain injury, a concussion, bruising and chest pain.

In the suit, Taylor alleges violation of his due process and free speech rights, as well as unlawful seizure, unlawful arrest and false imprisonment.

The college has suggested that Taylor "charged the table" where board members were seated. But the footage seems to show him trying to catch his balance after being grabbed from behind.

As the suit explains, Caples "approached plaintiff Taylor from behind and, without warning, command, identification, or order, grabbed plaintiff Taylor’s jacket, causing plaintiff Taylor to instinctively move forward trying escape the grasp of an unknown and unidentified person ..."

The lawsuit captures the melee:
After defendant Officer Caples grabbed, tripped, tackled, and body slammed plaintiff Taylor into the ground, audience members can be heard yelling “What are you doing?”; “Oh my God”; “Let him go”; “That is beyond the pale”; “That is wrong”; “First Amendment rights”.

At the same time, defendant Officer Caples’ body was on top of plaintiff Taylor when he landed on the ground. Defendant Officer Caples then forcefully thrusted his knee between plaintiff Taylor’s shoulder blades and wrenched plaintiff Taylor’s arm to handcuff plaintiff Taylor. Defendant Officer Caples was told by STLCC campus police officers Terri Buford (“Officer Buford”) and Adis Becirovic (“Officer Becirovic”) not to handcuff plaintiff Taylor.

After being assisted from the ground and complying with defendant Officer Caples’ orders, defendant Officer Caples put plaintiff Taylor in a wrist lock when plaintiff Taylor spoke to the Board about the violence he had just endured. Defendant Officer Caples and other unidentified police officers took plaintiff Taylor to a small empty room where he was confined, not free to leave, and under guard by at least three police officers.
In the suit, Taylor says he asked for medical attention, and the St. Louis Fire Department provided aid. He was later charged with resisting arrest and disturbing the peace; the first charge has since been dismissed, while the other is still pending.

The lawsuit argues that the board's prohibition on clapping, the announcement that originally drew Taylor's objection, is a "content-based restriction on free speech," which the courts have found is not permissible under the First Amendment. While the board would have the right to broadly prohibit clapping, Taylor and others have noted that the board didn't object to clapping when they were the recipients; it was only after the commencement of the public comment portion, during which someone spoke against them, that Gee announced that clapping would not be allowed.

"But for the content of and viewpoint expressed in plaintiff Taylor’s speech, defendant Officer Caples would not have forcefully removed plaintiff Taylor from the defendant STLCC’s Board of Trustees meeting by order of defendant Gee, banned from campus and, thus, from speaking at future meetings, and thereby silenced," the suit argues. "The silencing of plaintiff Taylor, as well as the other attendees of the meeting, who expressed approval and support for a presentation through clapping and the removal of plaintiff Taylor from the meeting for making a point of order regarding the no clapping rule being selectively and discriminatorily applied, was a violation of plaintiff Taylor’s constitutional rights."

About The Author

Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of Euclid Media Group, overseeing publications in eight cities. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and was previously editor-in-chief of the RFT and the LA Weekly. She lives in St. Louis.
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