Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Claim in $75 million lawsuit: Diamond police officers forced Neosho man to undergo public strip search
Sean Gray, Neosho, claims that R. J. Smith, who was a probationary Diamond Police Department officer at the time stopped him for speeding, then searched his vehicle and conducted the strip search at 1:20 p.m. at Ellison Street and N. Washington.
After the search turned up no evidence of drugs, Gray says, Police Chief Michael Jones told him he was "a f---ing disappointment," adding that he must have tossed the drugs out the window.
From the petition:
On or around November 20, 2012 and approximately four months after defendant Smith was approved for hire as a part-time, probationary, reserve police officer for defendant Diamond, plaintiff was pulled over by defendant Smith for allegedly exceeding the speed limit at the intersection of public streets and public places Ellison Street and N. Washington Street in Diamond, Missouri at or around 1:20 pm. He had no outstanding warrants for his arrest at the time of the stop.
During the traffic stop, defendant Smith began search the plaintiff’s vehicle, without a warrant, without arresting the plaintiff and without the plaintiff’s permission, express or implied, and/or without any justification.
Defendant Smith searched plaintiff’s vehicle without any sense of urgency or fear and nothing about his conduct indicates the situation presented any imminent threat to his safety. Defendant Smith damaged property in the plaintiff’s vehicle during the search and lost his sunglasses in the process.
Defendant Smith failed to locate any weapons, drugs or illicit contraband. At or about this time, defendant Smith also ordered plaintiff out of his vehicle without any justifiable cause and onto the public streets in plain view of other persons and/or motorists.
Defendant Smith thoroughly searched plaintiff’s person, including pulling up plaintiff’s foot and ankle to inspect his sock and/or shoe area while defendant Jones looked on and laughed. Defendant Smith failed to locate any weapons, drugs or illicit contraband on plaintiff’s person.
After thoroughly searching plaintiff’s person, the defendants instructed plaintiff to lower his pants and underwear to them and show them his genitals while the group was at or about the aforementioned public streets and public places without a warrant or arrest.
The defendants took no steps to protect the plaintiff’s privacy, such as conducting a “reach in” search, surrounding the plaintiff to obstruct others’ view or taking the plaintiff to a more private location such as the nearby police station.
Plaintiff instead stood in the aforementioned public streets and public places and was forced to expose his genitalia to the defendants. Defendants failed to locate any weapons, drugs or illicit contraband on plaintiff’s person after this unconstitutional strip search and body cavity search.
After conducting the searches and strip search, defendant Jones told plaintiff he was “a f---ing disappointment”, before insisting the plaintiff must have thrown drugs out the window of the plaintiff’s vehicle. Before permitting the plaintiff to leave, defendant Smith told plaintiff that “I guess you just f---ing stink!”
Smith, Jones and the City of Diamond are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
The two-count lawsuit claims Gray's Fourth and 14th Amendment rights were violated.
Diamond Municipal Court records indicate Gray pleaded guilty on a defective equipment charge and was fined $152.
Gray is represented by Todd M. Johnson, of Votava, Nantz and Johnson, LLC of Kansas City.