Qualified Immunity Claim
By Officers in 2001 Beating
Rejected By Appeals Court
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled three Metropolitan Police Department officers must pay $1.6 million for using excessive force on Charles “Chuck” Barnard back in 2001. The court rejected the officers’ claims of “qualified immunity.”
The ruling stems from a Dec. 8, 2001 incident which began when Barnard heard the distinct knock of the police on his door. Confident in the knowledge he had done nothing wrong, the former Marine opened the door and was immediately confronted by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officers Steven Radmanovich, Greg Theobald and Gary Clark. The officers were not looking for Barnard, but were trying to serve an arrest warrant on his brother.
Not wanting to get caught up in whatever it was they thought his brother had done, Barnard immediately told the officers he would cooperate in any way he could. With his hands raised, Barnard was escorted from his apartment by Theobald, while the other officers began to enter the apartment looking for Barnard’s brother.
LVMPD’s Greg Theobald
Despite the fact Barnard had committed no crime and was fully cooperating with officers, Theobald began to handcuff him. That’s when things went horribly wrong. Apparently unable to focus on both handcuffing the innocent Barnard and watch where he was walking, Theobald tripped over a large flower pot sitting in front of the apartment. Rather than accept responsibility for his own clumsiness, Theobald began to treat Barnard as if he had caused him to fall. Mistaking Theobald’s inability to watch where he was walking for Barnard’s resisting arrest, all three officers began attacking Barnard. They coated him with pepper-spray. One officer wedged a knee into his neck while employing a controversial choke-hold.
As a result of the incident Barnard was seriously injured, forced to undergo four spinal fusion surgeries and will most likely spend the rest of his life in constant pain. While the investigation conducted by Metro cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, a federal jury found that the officers had violated Barnard’s civil rights and awarded him $2.1 Million. A judge subsequently reduced the award to $1.6 million, which the officers appealed, claiming they had “qualified immunity,”
Qualified Immunity shields government officials from civil liability if a reasonable person would not consider their conduct a violation of constitutional rights. In a 21-page ruling the 9th Circuit Court denied the officers appeal, stating:
“a reasonable officer would have known it violated clearly established law to use a chokehold on a non-resisting arrestee who had surrendered, pepper-spray him and apply such knee pressure on his neck and back that it would cause the collapse of five vertebrae in his cervical spine.”
Theobald, the only officer still working with Metro, was one of three officers involved in the February 1, 2012 fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jason Baires. Theobald was shot in the hip during an exchange of gunfire which erupted when officers attempted to arrest Baires for the gruesome murder of his mother’s boyfriend. In 2012 Theobald salary and benefits cost taxpayers $149,342.65.
Radmanovich left Metro and joined the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in mid 2012. Prior to moving to Winnemucca, Radmanovich cost Clark County taxpayers $97,635.78 in salary and benefits.