On December 8, 2014, residents of St. Louis and Ferguson, MO, filed this lawsuit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The plaintiffs sued the co-directors of the Unified Command, which was responsible for oversight and control of all the law enforcement response to demonstrations following the killing of Michael Brown. The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys from ArchCity Defenders, Saint Louis University Legal Clinic, Advancement Project, Saint Louis Law School, and private counsel. The plaintiffs sought damages, a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief, alleging that their First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated as a result of unreasonable and unnecessary force during organized protests.
On November 24, 2014, following the announcement of the Grand Jury's decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed African-American teenager Michael Brown, citizens began to protest and voice their opinions about the frequency of unarmed African-American men being shot by police officers and the lack of police accountability. These demonstrations were met with a militarized response by police officers, including appearing in tanks and riot gear and shooting peaceful demonstrators with tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets. Because of the law enforcement's response to the demonstrations, several members of the community were harmed and prevented from exercising their constitutional rights.
On December 11, 2014, District Court Judge Carol E. Jackson granted the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the defendants. Judge Jackson ordered the defendants to refrain from using chemical agents to assist in the dispersing of groups engaged in non-criminal activities without issuing a clear warning that such steps would be taken and allowing individuals a sufficient opportunity to leave the area.
On January 5, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to vacate the TRO. The defendants argued that the TRO was against them acting in their capacities as directors of Unified Command, an entity created by the governor on November 17, 2014, in response to the protests stemming from the killing of Michael Brown. Since the executive order expired December 17, 2014, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs' claims were moot and should be dismissed. Judge Jackson denied their motion, noting that the complaint was brought against the defendants not only in their capacities as directors of Unified Command, but also in their official capacities as police officers and as officials of Missouri Highway control.
On January 5, 2015, Judge Jackson also dismissed the defendants' request for expedited discovery on the grounds that the request was not sufficiently supported.
On March 25, 2015, the parties filed a joint motion to dismiss and a settlement agreement. The defendants agreed to command their law enforcement to prohibit the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and other chemical agents, and the payment of the plaintiff's attorney fees and costs from the defendant totaling $7,500, with each defendant contributing $2,500 to the total amount.
On March 26, 2015, Judge Jackson granted the parties' motion to dismiss, retaining jurisdiction for the sole purpose of determining whether the settlement shall be enforced upon any motion of any party. Daniel Fryer - 10/19/2015