Stockley Lawsuits Could Cost the City Millions

Attorney for 21 plaintiffs warns jury judgements could be big.

Kevin Killeen
October 03, 2018 - 5:23 pm
Police officers stand guard in St. Louis, Missouri, the United States, Sept. 17, 2017. Protesters smashed windows and other property in downtown St. Louis, Missouri Sunday night.

© Xinhua

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX/AP) - Six new lawsuits accuse St. Louis police of misconduct in their handling of protesters after a former officer was acquitted in the death of a suspect. 

The federal lawsuits all stem from a protest near Ballpark Village on Sept. 29, 2017. That protest was among several after Jason Stockley, who is white, was found not guilty in the death of a black suspect. 

One of the new lawsuits says police threw the Rev. Darryl Gray to the ground, breaking his glasses, before arresting him. Protester Calvin Kennedy says a stun gun was used on him without warning. The others allege people were pepper-sprayed for questioning the treatment of Gray and Kennedy. 

Fifteen other lawsuits have been filed stemming from other protests. 

The cash-strapped city could face costly jury judgements in the wave of 21 federal lawsuits filed over police arrests of Stockley protesters.

Attorney Javad Khazaeli says if juries find the police used excessive force and pepper spray on innocent protesters, the damages could run into the tens-of-millions of dollars.

"Under these provisions of the federal Civil Rights Act, we could ask for punitive damages; and that's an unlimited cap that a jury could give," Khazaeli said. "And also if we prevail, we have the right to ask for attorney fees."

Right now, the city sets aside $3 million a year to handle lawsuits against its police department, but the city budget has been so tight, it struggles to pick up the trash on time. 

The firm Khazaeli and Wyrsch expects the lawsuits to take up to two years to work their way through the federal courts.