Lawsuit targets Decatur police after traffic stop | public safety
DECATUR — A landscape gardener who says he was held at gunpoint by Decatur police and fearing for his life in a case of mistaken identity is now suing cops and the city of Decatur for more than $150,000.
Quartus Stitt alleges his civil rights were also violated by subjecting him to an “unreasonable or prolonged investigative halt” after he stopped his car and ordered him out.
Stitt alleges police must have known they were stopping the wrong make of car with the wrong license plate in their search for an armed suspect.
The African-American plaintiff says the incident, which happened on June 26, 2020, came at a time when he harbored “feelings of mistrust/distrust and fear of police officers” following the death on May 25 of this year of George Floyd, who was killed during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers.
“Mr. Stitt was also extremely perplexed as to why Officer Does had approached him with their guns drawn, but also as to why he was even being detained, as he had done nothing other than his job!” said the lawsuit, which will be tried in the Central District of the United States District Court.
“…Mr. Stitt suffered injuries and damages of a pecuniary, emotional and physical nature, including but not limited to lost wages, medical expenses, embarrassment, pain and suffering and emotional distress,” said the lawsuit, filed that afternoon. of June 27.
The 10 officers involved are referred to as the “made officer” and the lawsuit says it will be changed once their “names and abilities … have been determined.”
In fact, the federal lawsuit is so fresh and new that Decatur city authorities had not yet heard of it when contacted by the Herald & Review.
Deputy City Manager Jon Kindseth said the city could not comment specifically on a lawsuit it had not seen. “Everyone has a right to due process and the courts are there for a reason,” Kindseth added.
“At the end of the day, he (Stitt) will have his day in court and the court will decide whether his position or his argument is valid or not.”
Decatur Police Chief Shane Brandel in an email said he hasn’t had a chance to review the lawsuit yet either. “However, in practice, I do not comment on ongoing litigation,” he added.
Stitt, 36, is represented by attorney Andrew Williams, based in Miami, Florida.
Williams said the focus now is on securing proper compensation for her client in the legal arena. “Our intention is obviously not to hit the police,” Williams said.
“But just as the police want to hold criminals accountable, it’s important that we also hold the police accountable.”
Details of the trial say the events happened around 4:50 p.m. after a woman alerted the police. She is described as the victim of an unspecified crime that took place in the 1300 block of East Hickory Street and involved a named “armed individual”.
Williams, in the lawsuit, alleges police were told the suspect they were looking for was fleeing the area in a white Mazda 6 model car with a South Carolina license plate. He said Stitt drove a white Mitsubishi Lancer with Florida plates. Stitt was using the vehicle while doing his landscaping work at a nearby house when he found himself “surrounded by Officer Does who pointed his guns at Mr. Stitt and demanded that he get out of the Mitsubishi”.
The lawsuit continues: “Mr. Stitt was detained and handcuffed by Officer Does in front of the community and neighborhood in which he worked while neighbors watched while Officer Does searched the Mitsubishi.
“It should be noted that all Does officers knew the assailant was in a white Mazda 6 with a South Carolina license plate…because this information had been relayed to them through the department’s radio dispatch from police ; not a Mitsubishi with a Florida license plate.
The lawsuit states that Stitt can support his claims about what happened because he had captured everything on video.
“The tape serves as compelling evidence to support Mr. Stitt’s assertions in this action,” the lawsuit alleges. A request has been made by the Herald & Review for a copy of the video.
The case has been assigned to Judge Colin Stirling Bruce but no hearing date has yet been set.
Read the complaint:
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Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid