Federal Court Rules That Trouble Understanding Police Orders Constitutes Resistance

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — An Oklahoma federal court has refused to hold police responsible for brutalizing an African-American man who, despite complying with police orders during an arrest, was subjected to excessive force and brutality, including being thrown to the ground, tasered, and placed in a chokehold that rendered him unconscious and required his hospitalization for three days.

In granting the police officers’ motion to dismiss a Fourth Amendment lawsuit filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute on behalf of Jeriel Edwards, the court ruled that Edwards’ confusion and trouble understanding police directions constituted “resistance” that justified the force used by the four police officers involved in the violent arrest. Institute attorneys argued that, as shown by dash cam video of the arrest, Edwards was peaceful, did not defy police orders, and did nothing to provoke the clearly unreasonable and excessive force employed by the police.

Affiliate attorney Andrea Worden is assisting in the defense of Edwards’ Fourth Amendment rights.

“If you ask police what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with law enforcement, they will tell you to comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “The problem is what to do when compliance is not enough. How can you maintain the illusion of freedom when daily, Americans are being shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, challenge an order or merely exist?”

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On October 25, 2016, Jeriel Edwards was sitting in his car in the parking lot of a Muskogee Wendy’s restaurant when he was approached by a City of Muskogee police officer who ordered Edwards to put the car in park and provide his identification. Body and dashboard camera video of the encounter shows that the officer made the request even though he already knew Edwards’ identity. The officer then ordered Edwards to get out of the vehicle and remove his hands from his pockets. Edwards complied with all the officer’s orders. At this time, a second Muskogee police officer arrived at the scene. As Edwards exited the vehicle, he was ordered to face the vehicle and place his hands behind his back.

At this point one of the officers grabbed Edwards’ right arm while the other officer shoved him into the corner of the car door, followed by the officers aggressively grabbing Edwards’ upper body and pushing his head into the corner of the car door as they attempted to place his hands behind his back. One officer then told Edwards to get to the ground, but before he could do so, the officers slammed him to the pavement. As the officers pushed Edwards’ head and neck to the ground, they also placed a knee on his body to pin him to the ground. Edwards repeatedly asked why the officers were abusing him, but got no answer. Instead, the first officer fired a taser at Edwards as he lay on the ground. A third officer arrived on the scene and made two striking motions at Edwards, the impact of which can be heard on the body camera video. A fourth officer arrived at the scene and put Edwards in a chokehold. As the four officers dragged Edwards to the ground, another joined the fray and held Edwards down by digging his knee into his body. Edwards lost consciousness en route to the hospital, where he was admitted to the ICU.

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Case History

November 1, 2019 • Police Defend Use of Taser, Chokehold & Excessive Force Against Man Who Complied During Arrest

November 1, 2018 • Rutherford Institute Sues Oklahoma Police Over Taser, Chokehold, Use of Excessive Force Against Man Who Complied Fully With Police Orders