Springfield man sues police officers claiming civil rights violations

8:00 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 Crime
A Springfield Police Division cruiser. Staff file photo

A Springfield man has sued three Springfield Police Division officers, alleging they violated his civil rights, assaulted him and failed to provide adequate medical care.

City Law Director Jerry Strozdas said his initial review of the case doesn’t indicate any misconduct on the part of the officers.

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On July 20, 2017, Devan Smith accidentally locked himself out of his home, according to the lawsuit. A neighbor saw him trying to get into the home and called police. Officers Justin Massie, Michael Fredendall and Kevin Hoying arrived on scene and Smith was placed in custody as they checked records to see if he lived at the residence. Once it was confirmed that he lived there, the officers allegedly didn’t leave.

They allegedly began questioning the plaintiff about if he had illegal drugs and searched his room, the suit claims. The officers found Smith’s prescription medication and questioned him, according to the lawsuit.

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The interaction between the four allegedly became hostile and triggered a seizure in Smith, who has epilepsy, the suit claims.

The officers were aware of the plaintiff’s condition, the suit says, but claimed they thought he had illegal drugs. They handcuffed Smith, the suit claims, and tried to pry his mouth open. Afterward they left Smith handcuffed and face down on the floor, according to the lawsuit.

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He regained consciousness later at the hospital and was still in handcuffs, the suit alleges. Smith was never charged after the series of events.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 11. The city just learned about it late Thursday, Strozdas said.

“I have done a preliminary review of the case and it is apparent to me there is no misconduct on part of the officers,” Strozdas said.

It’s the city’s intention to defend the officers, he said, and no decisions have been made about approaches or strategies.

The Springfield News-Sun contacted Smith’s lawyer listed in the lawsuit, Kurtis G. Black, but didn’t receive a call back.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial.