Friday, March 6, 2015

Here's One Story of Police Brutality You Won't Read in the DOJ Ferguson Report

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Henry Davis, after being beaten by Ferguson police, who later charged him with property damage for bleeding on officers' uniforms. - COURTESY OF JAMES SCHOTTEL
  • Courtesy of James Schottel
  • Henry Davis, after being beaten by Ferguson police, who later charged him with property damage for bleeding on officers' uniforms.

The U.S. Department of Justice's scathing report on abuses and racial discrimination in the Ferguson Police Department surprised St. Louis attorney James Schottel, but not for the reasons you'd think.

Unnecessary beatings, unwarranted arrests, severe force escalation, racial bias, disappearing paperwork and evidence -- the justice department's findings are old news to Schottel, whose client Henry Davis was mistakenly arrested in 2009, beaten by Ferguson police and then charged with property damage for bleeding on the officers' uniforms.

"Whatever happens in Ferguson doesn't surprise me," Schottel tells Daily RFT. "What I uncovered when I took the deposition of the prior [Ferguson police] chief [Thomas Moonier], there were problems there for years that were leading up to" the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown.

What did surprise Schottel is that his client's story isn't one of the dozens of stories the justice department shared in the 102-page report released this week to illustrate the extent of police misconduct in Ferguson.

"I thought they'd at least have a little bit in there," says Schottel, who represents Davis in a civil rights lawsuit against Ferguson Police. Schottel even called the justice department about the case when it opened the investigation in August. "But then as I read [the report], I thought, 'Welp, they've pretty much covered everything that happened in my case.'"

See also: Ferguson Police Tolerate Sexual Harassment of Female Officers: Justice Department

Ferguson police arrested Davis, a 52-year-old welder, while he was sitting in his car on September 20, 2009. Davis, who lived in St. Peters, later said that he'd missed the exit for St. Charles County and pulled off the highway into Ferguson's jurisdiction because of heavy rain.

An officer arrested Davis, who is black, on a warrant intended for another Henry Davis with a different middle name and social security number. A booking officer later noted that Davis was taller than the man police were looking for, according to Davis' lawsuit.

"I said, 'I told you guys it wasn't me,'" Davis later testified, according to the Daily Beast, which first reported the alleged beating.

But police weren't letting Davis off that easy. Officers escorted him to cell No. 3, where he found a man was already sleeping on the cell's cot. He asked for one of the sleeping mats he saw off to the side.

"Because it's three in the morning," he later testified. "Who going to sleep on a cement floor?"

But the officers didn't get him a mat. Instead, they rushed into the cell, handcuffed him, punched him in the head and body, and kicked him in the forehead, Davis claims.

"I thought they was gonna kill me," Davis tells NPR. A doctor at SSM St. Joseph Health Center who treated him days later diagnosed him with a concussion and a facial laceration. "I didn't know what they was trying to do. Because I didn't put up no struggle or nothing for them to come here and do that to me."

Police tell a different story. An attorney representing Ferguson and the officers named in Davis' lawsuit said Davis was defiant, refused to enter the cell and struck one of the officers in the face, breaking his nose. Davis says he never hit an officer but only raised his arms above his head to protect himself.

No one will ever know what really happened. Police said they accidentally taped over the security footage that would have shown the beating.

Find out how Ferguson police ended up charging Davis with property damage for bleeding on their uniforms on the next page.

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