$36,203 Jury Award in California Excessive Force Case

$36,203 Jury Award in California Excessive Force Case

A federal jury awarded a South Lake Tahoe man $36,203 in a lawsuit alleging the use of excessive force by South Lake Tahoe police. The jury award came in on March 7, 2007, after a four-day trial.

Rodney Ward was drinking alcohol with a friend on May 24, 2003. At about 10:00 p.m., he journeyed into the woods, and locals heard gunshots and yelling. Someone called the police.

When South Lake Tahoe officers Daren Baker, Greg Evans, and Alfredo Ramirez responded, they found Ward near a campfire, drunk. He was placed under arrest for starting an illegal campfire and public drunkenness. When the officers tried to get the handcuffed man through the wet, marshy woods, he allegedly became non-compliant.

The officers then took turns carrying the 250-pound man to their police cars. At one point, Evans put Ward in a “pain compliance hold,” which uses pressure on the neck to cause a “zap of pain.” After a trip to the hospital, Ward spent 13 days in jail.

Ward sued the city and the officers for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as for negligence, battery, and failure to train. Ward alleged that the offices should have used a backboard or a Stokes basket to carry him out because he had an ankle injury.

The city and the officers denied Ward’s claims, arguing that they followed policy.

Ward claimed damage to his shoulder as a result of the incident. He had $36,200 in medical bills but sought $320,000.

After six hours of deliberation, the jury found for Ward, but awarded him only his medical expenses and $1 against each officer, for a total of $36,203.

Case: Ward v. City of South Lake Tahoe, et al., United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division, Case No. 2:04-cv-00305-GEB-DAD (March 7, 2007)

Originally published in Criminal Legal News on December 19, 2017.