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Missouri residents sue police over use of force in Ferguson protests

Lawsuit claims police in Ferguson assaulted protesters, violated their civil rights
After Michael Brown shooting, police 'engaged U.S. citizens as if they were war combatants,' suit says
Mom, teen who were arrested at Ferguson McDonald's are among those suing police

Six Missouri residents filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging excessive force and false arrests by the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments during the street protests that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Among the allegations:

--Dewayne Matthews Jr. says he had his hands up when police officers in riot gear pelted him with rubber bullets, slammed his face into the concrete and doused him with a chemical spray.

--Tracey White and her 13-year-old son were waiting to leave a McDonald's, she says, when police stormed the restaurant and arrested them without cause.

--Damon Coleman and Theophilus Green say they were part of a peaceful protest in Ferguson on Aug. 11. Confronted by officers clad in riot gear, the two men shouted "hands up, don't shoot," the refrain that became a battle cry for demonstrators. Police responded with rubber bullets, tear gas, stun grenades, racial slurs and a beatdown.

The six residents accuse the police of humiliating them and depriving them of their civil rights in the days of clashes that began when the unarmed Brown, 18, was shot to death Aug. 9 by Officer Darren Wilson.

In the days that followed, police "took up arms, and in militaristic displays of force and weaponry, engaged U.S. citizens as if they were war combatants," according to the 30-page court filing.

The lawsuit seeks millions in damages for alleged abuses that took place between Aug. 11 and 13.

Authorities have said Wilson fired in self-defense after Brown attacked him. Several witnesses as well as Brown's family have said Brown was gunned down as he tried to surrender.

The shooting sparked nearly two weeks of protests in Ferguson in which clouds of tear gas and the sight of police in riot gear threatened to become a nightly routine. More than 200 people were arrested, and many questioned the swift and at times forceful response of officers as they attempted to quell unrest.

A grand jury has been convened to weigh criminal charges in Brown's death, but the results of those proceedings may not become public until October.

The suit, which names Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Delmar and both departments among the defendants, claims the officers assaulted the plaintiffs. It also contends both departments failed to adequately train their officers.

Police have said the arrests were for failure to disperse, but the lawsuit contends the arrests were baseless.

Calls to Jackson and a St. Louis County police spokesman seeking comment were not immediately returned. 

Brown's funeral was Monday.

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for breaking news

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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