Walnut Ridge approves possible settlement in railroad worker’s lawsuit

Walnut Ridge settles police officer harassment case

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - The Walnut Ridge City Council discussed a possible settlement to the lawsuit filed against the city after a man said he was unlawfully arrested, assaulted and harassed by Walnut Ridge police in December 2016.

A lawsuit was filed in federal court by Mark Rees on behalf of Adam Finley in April 2018 against the city, Mayor Charles Snapp, former Police Chief Chris Kirksey, Officer Matthew Mercado, and Sgt. Matt Cook.

During a special city council meeting Monday a resolution was approved to authorize Mayor Snapp to sign settlement papers and pay $57,500 to settle the lawsuit. The City of Walnut Ridge would pay $28,750 from the unallocated general fund and the Arkansas Municipal League would pay $28,750 as well.

When Mayor Snapp spoke to Region 8 News, he said because of the nature of the charges the municipal league initially declined any protection through their insurance policy, which would have left the entire sum up to the city to cover.

“As the suit progressed, they did decide to go ahead and split the cost with us,” Mayor Snapp said. “I would have rather it been less, but I’m very pleased with what it was.”

Sgt. Matt Cook was placed on administrative leave when the lawsuit was filed in 2018 but has since returned to the force.

Former Officer Matthew Mercado resigned from the police department in February 2017.

Kirksey resigned as police chief in June 2018.

Finley had originally asked for punitive damages and a jury trial in the case.

According to online court records, the lawsuit was set for jury trial in November 2019. The last update in the case’s progress came through at joint status report filed on April 8, 2019.

In the report, all parties involved noted that a settlement conference had not yet been set, but the report noted “The parties are currently engaged in settlement negotiations.”

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