Missouri prisoner's suit claiming U.S. Marshall used excessive force reopened

By Elizabeth Alt | Mar 16, 2018

ST. LOUIS — The District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri has reopened a 2017 case against a United States Marshal after the plaintiff filed an amended complaint specifically naming Drew Poland as one of the officers he claims tasered him after he was already on the ground, causing injuries.

Justice Ronnie White ordered that the dismissal be vacated and issued a summons to Poland. White noted that the district court must further evaluate the plaintiff’s claim that Poland tasered him and did not intervene when the other officers tasered him.

“Although defendant may be entitled to qualified immunity, qualified immunity is an affirmative defense. The burden of pleading it rests with the defendant," White said in the order.

Antrell Anthony Teen, now a prisoner in a Missouri institute, filed a lawsuit against United States Marshal Drew Poland after he claims Poland and 6 other federal law enforcement officers entered his home to arrest him in 2015. Teen claims in his 2017 complaint that he was afraid for his life and did not speak or move except to comply with the officers’ commands.

In his complaint, Teen referenced the controversial and highly publicized 2014 death of Michael Brown, an African-American Missouri man shot and killed by a police officer. Teen stated that he did not want to “be a statistic” and was simply trying to “get out alive." Teen alleged that two of the officers fired their tasers at him and continued to taser him after he fell to the ground. Teen says he was stunned for less than a minute, and handcuffed while on the ground.

Teen claimed in his first complaint that Poland did not intervene “to prevent the other officers from using excessive force," and claimed he suffered an injury to his hip.

In an order from July 2017 allowing Teen to amend his original complaint, White said that Teen had not alleged any facts that proved Poland was “directly involved in or personally responsible for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights."

In August 2017, the court dismissed Teen’s case for failure to state a claim. White, who has presided for each hearing of Teen’s case, said in the dismissal that Poland could not have known that Teen was in any imminent harm or danger, responding to Teen’s allegation of failure to protect against Poland. White also found the defendant was qualified for immunity. 

The 2017 court document states, “Plaintiffs' allegations do not show that a reasonable officer in defendant's position should have known that his conduct was unlawful. The incident lasted less than a minute, and the use of stun guns in carrying out arrest warrants is a common occurrence.” 

Now, in his second amended complaint, Teen specifically alleges that Poland was one of the two officers who tasered him and used excessive force.

White ordered the case to be reopened, saying, “The Court must analyze plaintiff's second amended complaint as alleging unlawful use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. As (Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics) makes clear, the Fourth Amendment guarantees United States citizens "the absolute right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures carried out by virtue of federal authority."

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