A man who alleges that Boise police shocked him with a Taser multiple times, even after three officers had subdued him, has sued the City of Boise for breaching his Fourth Amendment rights by unreasonable search and seizure and excessive use of force.
Gerald Amidon, 46, a Boise contractor, was at his girlfriend's house on Valentine's Day, trying to patch up the relationship, when Boise police arrived at the door, barged in without identifying themselves and quickly subdued him, deploying the Taser three to four times, according to a tort claim filed Monday with the City of Boise.
Boise Police Officer Guy McKean is identified in the police report as the officer wielding the Taser; an audio tape of the arrest appears to indicate that it was McKean who stunned Amidon at least two times, and threatened to shock him further on his "asshole" and "balls." Amidon has sued McKean, along with arresting officer Cory Bammert, officers Deidra Harr and Mark Abercrombie and supervising Sgt. George Stevens--identified only as "Officer #10" in the suit. The city is also named in the lawsuit.
Amidon was arrested that night on suspicion of misdemeanor battery, unlawful entry and false imprisonment and will appear in court on those charges next month. Amidon will also appear in court on three other unrelated criminal cases in August and September, on charges including petit theft, driving without privileges, burglary and grand theft.
Soon after Valentine's Day, Amidon e-mailed Boise City Community Ombudsman Pierce Murphy, initiating an investigation into possible police brutality that was completed earlier this month. Murphy's report concludes that the second use of the Taser against Amidon, after he was handcuffed and held down by three officers, was "neither reasonable nor necessary."
"The complainant came to me and before he came to me no one in the police department, below a certain rank knew this happened," said Murphy, who reports to Mayor Dave Bieter and the City Council and serves a Boise police watchdog.
Police Chief Mike Masterson, responding to Murphy's report, called the excessive use of the Taser and the sexually explicit threats, "conduct unbecoming an officer," an offense that often leads to termination.
While McKean and Stevens were disciplined for their actions, Masterson would not divulge the nature of the punishment and confirmed that both officers had returned to regular duty. Boise Weekly requested comment from both McKean and Stevens but was told by Boise Police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower that only the chief would speak for the department about the Taser incident.
Murphy's decision to investigate initiated a separate internal probe, assigned to the Idaho State Police. The state police referred their findings to the Ada County prosecutor, who declined to charge McKean or any of the other officers involved.
Recently released from a short stint in prison, Amidon recounts that he was trying to patch up his relationship with a girlfriend on Valentine's Day. The two had breakfast that morning and agreed to meet up later. But later that evening, when it appeared that he may get blown off for the second date, Amidon went by the woman's house--she was out with her 3-year-old son at the time--and spotted roses on the kitchen table, making him upset and jealous.
According to his affidavit, Amidon then proceeded to enter the house and trash her room. Later that night, he tried to make up for his behavior, offering to clean up the mess. But by that time, the woman had called a friend, asking her to bring someone to beat up Amidon. According to Bammert's police report, it was the friend who called the police, unbeknownst to Amidon or the woman. When police arrived and banged on the door, Amidon believed it was someone coming to "kick his ass."
Amidon alleges--and Murphy's report confirms--that the four Boise police officers who first responded failed to identify themselves as police officers before barging through the front door and tackling Amidon. On a tape made by one of the officers, Amidon can be heard pleading with police and asserting that he thought it was the woman's friends at the door.
Murphy's report finds that McKean, whom he calls "Officer #3," may or may not have been justified in his first use of the Taser, but does not find that it was excessive use of force. However the second Taser shock, which Murphy identifies as being on the inside of the right butt cheek and the lawsuit claims was in the perineum and anogenital area, was found by the ombudsman to be excessive use of force.
Amidon claims he was also stunned on the wrist, and possibly a second time on the butt, but Murphy found that McKean's Taser had only been deployed twice that night, according to data stored on the Taser. Amidon does scream, "My hands," at one point on the tape, which could be evidence of a shock to the wrist, the lawsuit alleges.
The woman told police that she also thought it was her friend outside and that she asked Amidon to let her out to call them off because her cell phone was dead. Amidon held the door shut and did not let her out. The woman never told police that Amidon pushed her, but Bammert alleges in his report that through an opening in the door he saw Amidon shove the woman.
Bammert's report also states that Stevens met him at the Ada County Jail to interview Amidon and that both officers taped the interview. Murphy found that Stevens had erased his recording of the interview, which is against department policy. Stevens also told Murphy that he started, and then stopped recording the jailhouse interview and he told the ISP investigator that he did not record it at all. Murphy was able to recover the entire recording, however.
Stevens also failed to investigate the use of the Taser and file a use of force report, Murphy found, also in violation of department policy.
Amidon claims in the lawsuit that his career and income have been damaged by the incident, that he has suffered emotional distress and that he questions the prior respect he had for the police and the city. He is asking for $500,000 in punitive damages and has prepared a federal civil rights lawsuit that his attorney, Ron Coulter, will file within 91 days if the city does not respond adequately to the tort claim.
"Right now, we're asking the city to give justice to our client, and there's a number of ways they can do it," Coulter said.