City settles over claims police roughed up man in traffic stop

Published 10:10 am Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Brookhaven man who sued in federal court, claiming his constitutional rights were violated when two police officers roughed him up in his driveway after a traffic stop in 2016, recently reached a settlement with the officers and the city.

James Earl Little Jr. claimed two Brookhaven Police Department officers used “abusive conduct” during a traffic stop on Dec. 24, 2016, in which Little was cuffed and placed in a squad car, but never charged or arrested. Little’s suit sought damages for medical costs, loss of earnings, emotional distress, attorney fees and punitive damages against the officers. The settlement amount was not disclosed in court documents. Following the settlement, the suit against the two officers was dismissed.

“Several of Mr. Little’s neighbors were eyewitnesses to the incident, and we believe their testimony will substantiate the allegations of the lawsuit,” said Ridgeland attorney James M. Priest, who represented Little. “If the officers had followed proper procedures, Mr. Little wouldn’t have suffered the injuries to his hand and arm.”

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Little’s lawsuit, filed on June 21, claims he was driving home on Christmas Eve in a recently-purchased vehicle when the officers questioned him in his driveway about his car’s lack of a tag. When Little told the officers he would retrieve the tag application paperwork from within his home, one officer grabbed him, shoved him against the car, handcuffed him and placed him in a police vehicle while screaming profanity, the suit alleges.

The officers did not arrest Little or issue him a citation. Little claims the detainment injured his wrist, arm and shoulder.

The lawsuit states the officers had no reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop and detain Little, that their conduct was abusive and they used excessive force, and that they violated Little’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure and his 14th Amendment right to due process.

The city contended the two officers attempted to stop Little on the road and had to pursue him to his home, and that any injuries or damages were the result of his own conduct. The response also alleges Little’s injuries were preexisting.