It was Reginald Johnson’s 43rd birthday, and I’m sure he thought someone was pulling a prank on him when he got pulled over, even though he had done nothing wrong. He wasn’t laughing when officers tasered him after he kept asking what he had done and what the officers wanted with him. When dealing with cops, you’re not supposed to ask questions or to try to ascertain why they’re treating you like a criminal. You’re supposed to blindly follow their orders or face execution. Or in Johnson’s case, electrical torture.
It turned out that the cops had the wrong guy. They thought he was the guy they were looking for, but they were wrong.
And of course, the police blamed the incident on Johnson himself for not complying fast enough. “If you had just gotten out, we’d have been able to explain everything and clear it up the easy way. But you wanted to make things difficult,” one of the officers told him. I think they had given him all of 14 seconds to do as they commanded before they discharged a taser dart into him for “officer safety.”
And of course, the police charged him with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, charges which were eventually dropped.
Johnson sued for $270,000 and won. I don’t think anything happened to the cops who joked about planting drugs on him after they found that he was not the guy they were looking for.
The incident that was the focus of Reginald Johnson’s suit was captured on video and showed two Seaford officers – who apparently believed that Johnson was someone else – pulling over Johnson’s car, demanding he get out and without allowing Johnson much time to respond, shooting him with a Taser and roughly handcuffing him.
Moments later, after Johnson protests that he has done nothing wrong, two officers can be heard laughing and one joking about planting drugs in Johnson’s car.
Adding insult to injury, the day of the 2011 incident was Johnson’s 43rd birthday.
According to court papers, on the evening of Sept. 18, 2011, Johnson was pulled over as he was headed eastbound on Norman Eskridge Highway, west of U.S. 13. Cpl. Marc D. Russell then approached the car on the driver’s side and ordered Johnson to get out, while Russell’s partner approached on the passenger side with his gun drawn.
Just about 14 seconds pass between the time Russell demands Johnson exit his car and when Russell fires his Taser. On the video, one officer can be heard telling Johnson, “If you had just gotten out, we’d have been able to explain everything and clear it up the easy way. But you wanted to make things difficult.”
A short time later on the video, an officer is heard saying, “Someone drop the dope in here,” followed by laughter.
According to the police report of the incident, officers were searching for an unnamed man in that area, and a tracking device appeared to indicate the cellphone of the man they were searching for was in Johnson’s car. The report, written by Russell, does not state if the cellphone was recovered during the arrest.
Russell also wrote that he deployed his Taser because he immediately became concerned for his safety when Johnson did not exit the car immediately.
Why couldn’t the officers have told Johnson what they were doing and what they wanted? What would have been so difficult about that? The report said something about there being a cellphone in Johnson’s car that could have belonged to the guy they were actually looking for. If that’s even true, why couldn’t they have said something about it to Johnson? No, they’re the ones who have to insist on making things difficult.
But even that’s being generous. Did the police have probable cause to believe that Johnson had done something criminal? Did they obtain a search warrant for Johnson’s car and specifically list the cellphone as being the item to be seized? Their report said they were searching for an “unnamed man.” So, they didn’t even know who they were looking for? Listening to them joking about planting drugs on Johnson, it doesn’t sound like their “investigation” of this “unnamed man” was all that serious.
Arresting this guy for “resisting arrest” is akin to police randomly banging on your front door with their guns drawn, commanding you to come out of your house, and after you dare ask why, forcefully pulling you out, tasering you, and arresting you for resisting arrest.