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Man’s federal claims against Noblesville police fail

January 5, 2016

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court ruling granting summary judgment in favor of law enforcement officers on a man’s claims alleging false arrest and excessive force.

Tracy Williams was pulled over by Noblesville Police officer Brandon Brooks for failing to activate his turn signal before changing lanes. The traffic stop was recorded on his dashboard camera. Brooks suspected Williams may have been intoxicated based on his refusal to roll the window down more than a few inches, but a check of Williams’ license and registration yielded no problems. As Brooks was going to give Williams a warning ticket, Williams got out of his car. He then refused to go back into the car, causing Brooks to try to pat him down. Williams did not comply with commands to lean against the car. Another office responded and handcuffed Williams.

Williams was charged with Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement, but the charge was dismissed by the trial court. Williams then filed suit in federal court against Brooks, the second officer, only referred to as Kehl in the court opinion, and shift supervisor Shannon Trump. Williams alleged false arrest, excessive force and failure to protect in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

Brooks’ testimony that he saw Williams change lanes without signaling establishes probable cause for the traffic stop, and he could lawfully arrest Williams for this infraction, Judge Joel Flaum wrote. Brooks also had probable cause to arrest him for resisting law enforcement because once the officer had probable cause to conduct the traffic stop, he could arrest Williams without violating the Fourth Amendment, even if Williams was not resisting law enforcement, Flaum continued.

The 7th Circuit found that a reasonable jury would find that Brooks used a reasonable amount of force and also affirmed that the state court’s dismissal of the resisting law enforcement charge was not binding on the district court.

The case is Tracy Williams v. Brandon Brooks, et al, 15-1763.

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