Court dismisses Topeka officer’s appeal in lawsuit over excessive force

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A federal appeals court said Monday it does not have jurisdiction to grant a Topeka police officer immunity after a man sued him for excessive force.

The legal team of Officer Christopher Janes requested qualified immunity in a lawsuit that claims he used excessive force when arresting Timothy Harris in January of 2018. The measure gives government officials special protection.

The arrest happened when Officer Janes said Harris’s car was parked in the wrong direction on the street and arrested him for an outstanding warrant and for reports of wrongful possession of his girlfriend’s things.

After Officer Janes put Harris in handcuffs things turned violent, according to the lawsuit.

“According to Harris, Janes threw him down onto the curb and street. Because Harris was handcuffed, he could not break his fall and landed face-first on the curb, leaving “blood in the street,”” the lawsuit said, ” Janes sprayed Harris with pepper spray and punched him several times.”

Other officers eventually arrived at the scene to arrest Harris, and his girlfriend who was in the car with him. Harris then filed a lawsuit against the City of Topeka, and Officer Janes, saying he used excessive force.

In response to the lawsuit, Officer Janes filed a motion to ask judges for qualified immunity. A district court denied that motion, so Officer Janes appealed to a U.S. Court of Appeals. On Monday that court dismissed his appeal, saying they don’t have jurisdiction.

Harris’s lawyer, Andrew Stroth said this decision marks a victory for his client, “Mr. Harris was unjustifiably beaten by TPD officer Christopher Janes and sustained major injuries. This case represents yet another example of a young black man, without cause or provocation, beaten by a police officer in America,” Stroth said.

Stroth also represents Dominique White, who was killed during an encounter with Topeka police in 2017.

KSNT has reached out to a city spokeswoman and the officer’s attorney for comment. We will update the story once they respond.

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