Man Sues Casper Police Officers, City Over Civil Rights Violations
A Casper man who worked as a bouncer at a local bar has sued three Casper police officers and the city for allegedly violating his constitutional right to not present identification without probable cause, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.
"This matter concerns a citizen's right to respectfully decline to comply with law enforcement's unlawful request without suffering detention, seizure, arrest, and search," according to the complaint by Kaleb Clark filed by his attorneys Ian Sandefer and Jamie Woolsey.
"Further, this case is brought to ensure that the color of one's skin does not determine the scope of his or her liberty," according to the complaint.
Casper City Attorney John Henley did not return calls seeking comment on the lawsuit.
The case started at 2:25 a.m. July 7, 2018, when the officers -- Andrea Husted, Scott Jones and a defendant known only as John Doe -- went to the front door of the Gaslight Social.
Clark, an African-American, unlocked it and let them in.
The officers began accusing Clark of being Lucas Sanchez, a former employee of the bar who was not there that night and who apparently had an arrest warrant out of Johnson County.
Husted demanded that Clark show identification to prove he was not Sanchez, "... and, understanding his constitutional rights, told the officers he would not provide them with his identification," according to the complaint.
Other employees told the officers he was not Sanchez.
But the officers arrested and handcuffed him anyway, upon which Clark became upset and yelled at the officers. That led to a "disturb the peace" charge, according to the complaint.
After being handcuffed, officers removed Clark's wallet and saw that he was not Lucas Sanchez.
Even so, they took him to jail and booked him on the disturb the peace charge, according to the complaint.
Clark's attorneys noted that Husted had previously called her sister, who worked at the bar, and asked if she knew Sanchez. The sister said she did, adding he was no longer a regular employee other than for special events and would not be working that night.
Husted's sister later called Husted and told her she was arresting the wrong person. The sister left a voicemail saying, "'this is not f-----g fair [Mr. Clark] is a good person.'" Andrea Husted did not respond, according to the complaint.
In an affidavit, Husted wrote that she spoke with "Clark's boss" -- without naming him or her -- saying Clark was Sanchez and added false information, according to the complaint. "This was all done in an attempt to cover up the CPD's unconstitutional demand that Mr. Clark provide them with his identification, and the officers' unlawful arrest of Mr. Clark after he asserted his right not to do so."
Clark and his attorneys said this incident wasn't the first of its kind for the city and the police department.
"The Casper Police Department had a custom, policy, pattern and practice of arresting citizens who declined to provide police officers with information that the officers demanded, but were not entitled to collect," according to the complaint.
A month-and-a-half before Clark was arrested, Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey declared a similar arrest violated federal law. The city negotiated a $149,000 settlement and agreed to provide further training about this constitutional requirement.
"The City of Casper was, without question, on notice of its unconstitutional custom, policy, pattern and practice at the time its officers interacted with Mr. Clark," according to the complaint.
Clark's lawsuit identifies four constitutional violations.
Three of those concern the Fourth Amendment: prohibition about unlawful seizure, prohibition of unlawful search, and one directed at the city through the police department for causing or tolerating the unconstitutional acts.
The other constitutional violation listed falls under the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause, according to the complaint. "At the time of the complained events, Mr. Clark had the clearly established constitutional right to be free from racial discrimination in law enforcement by police officers and to enjoy equal protection of the laws. Mr. Clark's race was a motivating factor in the decision to encounter, detain, seize and arrest him...."
Clark wants a trial. He is seeking damages for emotional distress, economic losses, punitive damages, attorneys fees and other costs.
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