Officers’ Account Of Incident Varies Sharply In Evansville Police Brutality Lawsuit
Although extensive and detailed, allegations Evansville police officers filed against a man were never proven in court and were thrown out after a prosecutor moved to dismiss the case "in the interest of justice."
Four years later, that man is suing officers for police brutality.
An affidavit of probable cause in a 2018 incident that led to a federal police brutality lawsuit being filed last week gives a vastly different version of events than those provided by attorneys for a man who is claiming Evansville police officers brutally and needlessly assaulted him.
Last week, Brandon Wuebker filed suit in US District Court for Wyoming against three Evansville police officers and the town for events that reportedly occurred during the early morning hours of May 20, 2018.
Through his attorney, Wuebker claims he was a backseat passenger in a car that was pulled over. After officers ran his identification for warrants, Wuebker was cleared. Wuebker says he asked to go to the bathroom at a nearby gas station and was denied. As his need became more urgent, Wuebker attempted to get out of the car.
According to the federal complaint, officers told Wuebker he was under arrest before he was forcibly removed from the car, pepper-sprayed, beaten and Tasered numerous times. Wuebker alleges he suffered a concussion and needed multiple stitches.
Wuebker was ultimately charged with interference with a peace officer before the case was thrown out nearly a year later.
Evansville PD's Account of May 18, 2018
Allegations in an affidavit of probable cause that were never proven in court state Wuebker was belligerent and fought officers, leading to officers needing to use force to subdue him.
According to the affidavit, Evansville police officer Bryce Norcross saw a white Volvo traveling south on Western Avenue and run a stop sign at the intersection of the Yellowstone Highway. Norcross stopped the vehicle as it traveled onto the Interstate 25 on-ramp.
Norcross notes in the affidavit that the female driver appeared to be drunk. She was eventually arrested for DUI.
As Norcross was speaking with the driver, he reportedly saw Wuebker in the backseat of the vehicle not wearing a seatbelt. Wuebker "reluctantly" provided Norcross with his identification, per Norcross's account.
The affidavit states Officer Matthew McGraw and Sgt. Luke Nelson arrived a short time later. McGraw advised that Wuebker was becoming verbally abusive toward officers.
Norcross's report states Wuebker and the passenger attempted once again to get out of the vehicle. Officers reportedly ordered Wuebker and the passenger to remain in the vehicle but were ignored.
Norcross's report claims that when Wuebker was informed of his arrest for interference, he refused to get out of the vehicle. Instead, officers had to forcibly remove him, pepper spray him and eventually use a Taser twice. Norcross's report states Wuebker struck his head on the pavement and received a laceration.
Wuebker was eventually taken to Wyoming Medical Center where he was treated for his injuries. Officers' report of the events states Wuebker refused stitches due to the cost.
McGraw's report claims that Wuebker was upset at McGraw for shining his flashlight on him while he sat in the car.
"I advised Wuebker that I did not know him and that I will use my light to see," McGraw writes. "Wuebker continued to argue with me making statements such as it was illegal for me to shine my light on him because he was doing nothing wrong. I advised Wuebker to keep quiet and not interfere with the traffic stop, otherwise, he would end up going to jail."
A Dramatically Different Version Of Events
Wuebker's version of events through his own legal filing details a markedly different incident in which at least one officer threatened to retaliate against the other passenger and Wuebker for derogatory statements made against officers.
"Sergeant Nelson, apparently annoyed by minor verbal protests by the female passenger in the front seat of the car (who called Sg.t Nelson a 'f-----g pig and f-----g a-----e'), declared his own intention to retaliate and 'f--k' these people up,'" Wuebker's complaint states.
In another example of conflicting reports, Norcross describes Wuebker as suffering from a "small" laceration above his right eye, but a still image from Nelson's body-worn camera footage shows Wuebker on the sidewalk with a bloody forehead and blood pooling next to him.
Additionally, Wuebker's complaint claims the officers involved recklessly and unreasonably created the situation which led to Wuebker's injuries.
The town of Evansville has not yet issued a response to the suit.