A 55-yaer-old Eunice, La., man was awarded $124,715 in damages and related costs by a state judge who found that the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office and Eunice Police Department used excessive force when they arrested him in April 2009.
The Advocate reports that state District Judge Alonzo Harris found Jurnell Smith had committed no crime when officers encountered him on the night of April 22, 2009 and used excessive force, including pepper spray and a stun gun, to arrest him.
Harris issued his ruling Thursday.
The judge said Smith was “minding his own business trying to get home” when he was arrested.
Smith was arrested after he passed police officers investigating a stabbing incident at a club in Eunice.
Harris ruled that officers overreacted with one telling Smith to stay in his car while another one asked him to get out of the car.
Smith said he was pepper sprayed and shocked by a stun gun when he reached over to his right to release his seatbelt, according to the judgment.
The judge noted that Smith has testified that he was not asked for identification. Police denied that.
Smith was later arrested on counts of resisting an officer and interfering with the duties of an officer. He was later found not guilty of both counts in Eunice City Court.
After his acquittal, Smith filed a lawsuit against the Eunice Police Department and St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, both of which were involved in Smith’s arrest.
Smith’s attorney, Jarvis J. Claiborne, said Smith lost his job as a correctional officer because of his arrest.
“His life has never been the same, quite frankly, since that night. He still has post traumatic issues that he faces each day when he passes by the spot where the incident occurred,” Claiborne said.
Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told the newspaper that his deputy acted properly and that Smith should have shown his identification quickly.
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