ST. LOUIS — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has rejected the qualified immunity defense put up by the City of Ferguson and its police involving the claims of Michael Brown's companion Dorian Johnson.
In a ruling filed on July 25, the court held that Johnson sufficiently alleged that he was seized on Aug. 9, 2014, the same day Brown was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson. Seizure, in this case, refers to taking possession of a person or property.
The killing of Brown exploded into violent riots that captured national headlines weeks and months afterwards.
Johnson, who was not injured in the incident, sued in state court in May 2015, and weeks later, the case was moved to a federal court in St. Louis. Johnson alleges that Wilson assaulted him, violated his constitutional rights and inflicted emotional distress.
U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig for U.S. District Court for the the Eastern District of Missouri denied the defendants' argument of immunity and their request to dismiss the case. They then appealed to the Eighth Circuit.
Justices Michael Joseph Melloy and Diana Murphy affirmed Fleissig's finding that Johnson not only sufficiently pleaded that he was seized, but also that it was "unreasonable" for Wilson to draw his gun and shoot twice, striking Brown.
After Wilson shot Brown in the arm, the two ran away. According to the ruling, Wilson did not order Brown and Johnson to stop or freeze.
"Rather, Officer Wilson fired his service weapon at the two men, striking Brown several times and killing him," according to the ruling.
Melloy and Murphy held that Johnson sufficiently alleged a violation of a constitutional right.
However, in dissent, Justice Roger Leland Wollman disagreed with the majority's conclusion that Johnson was seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
Wollman found that Johnson was neither physically restrained nor prevented from going to the sidewalk in compliance with Wilson's command rather than running away.