City and prosecuting attorney respond after lawsuit filed against Walnut Ridge officer, mayor in federal court

WARNING STRONG LANGUAGE: Finley Traffic Stop ACIC Redacted
Published: Apr. 13, 2018 at 11:24 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2018 at 3:11 PM CDT
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WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - A Lawrence County man has alleged in federal court that he was unlawfully arrested, assaulted and harassed by Walnut Ridge police and that police have not investigated complaints of police brutality and misconduct.

According to an eleven-page suit filed April 5 in federal court at Jonesboro by attorney Mark Rees on behalf of Adam Finley, Finley of Smithville is asking for punitive damages as well as a jury trial in the case.

The suit names Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp, Police Chief Chris Kirksey, and Officers Matthew Mercado and Matt Cook, both individually and in their official capacity.

"This is an action for damages sustained by a citizen of the United States against police officers of the Walnut Ridge Police Department who unlawfully arrested, assaulted and harassed Plaintiff, against the Chief of Police as a supervisory officer responsible for the conduct of the 'City' Defendants, and for the failure of each of them to take corrective action with respect to police personnel, as well as their failure to investigate complaints of police brutality and misconduct and/or impose discipline, and to ensure proper training and supervision of personnel, and/or to implement meaningful procedures to discourage lawless official misconduct, and against the city of Walnut Ridge, which is the employer of the 'City Officers,' all of which are sued as persons under 42 U.S.C. 1983," Rees said in the court filing.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Price Marshall.

The Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce's office released the following statement Thursday:

In response to recent inquiries to my office regarding citations issued that resulted from a traffic stop made by a Walnut Ridge Police Officer I have inquired into the matter.  The charges were actually made by citation at the recommendation of my deputy prosecuting attorney, Ryan Cooper, after having the events of the traffic stop related to him by Walnut Ridge Chief of Police Chris Kirksey.

I have also reviewed the video of the incident that led to the citations being issued and feel that the evidence justified the recommendation Mr. Cooper made to the Chief of Police.  Ark. Code Ann. § 5-54-103 states "A person commits the offense of refusal to submit to arrest if he or she knowingly refuses to submit to arrest by a person known by him or her to be a law enforcement officer effecting an arrest." As used in this subsection, "refuses" means active or passive refusal. It is no defense to a prosecution under this subsection that the law enforcement officer lacked legal authority to make the arrest if the law enforcement officer was acting under color of his or her official authority.  It also bears note that the Prosecuting Attorney's Office, in no way, handles the civil actions or liabilities of the City of Walnut Ridge.

On Wednesday, April 18, Mayor Snapp responded to the lawsuit:

We are forwarding the information the City of Walnut Ridge has for the Finley vs Walnut Ridge suit to the Arkansas Municipal League. To date we have not met with the attorney assigned the case. Until we have met with council, the City will not make any statements, other than to confirm that the officer in the December 2016 video resigned his employment with the City of Walnut Ridge in February of 2017.

The court filing can be seen here:

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