It should come as no surprise that the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri is not an isolated incident, it was already plain to see that the community had little faith in their police department — and as it turns out they have good reason.
The Daily Beast has uncovered an incident from 2009 in which a 52 year-old welder named Henry Davis found himself in Ferguson by happenstance. He had missed his exit for St. Charles and pulled off the highway in Ferguson because a heavy rain storm had made it impossible to drive. As he sat waiting for the rain to subside, an officer with the St. Louis County Police Department pulled up behind him and ran his license plate.
Mr. Davis unfortunately shared his name with another Henry Davis who had an outstanding arrest warrant. He was promptly arrested without any explanation. The officer cuffed him and placed him in the back of the patrol car and drove him to police department to be booked.
Davis shared his first and last names with the wanted man but did not have the same middle name and his social security number didn’t match, a fact that the booking officer noticed at once. One might expect the ordeal to end right then and there, they had the wrong man and this Henry Davis was wanted for nothing, but this was Ferguson, Missouri and Davis was a black man, instead of releasing him and apologizing for the mistake, the booking officer escorted him to a one man cell already occupied and locked him up.
Davis then made the mistake of objecting to being locked into a one man cell at 3 in the morning with someone already sleeping on the sole bunk. He asked to at least be given a mat to put down on the concrete floor so that he could lie down.
The booking officer called in several other officers and when one opened the cell, another charged Davis slamming him into the wall of the cell.
“I told the police officers there that I didn’t do nothing, ‘Why is you guys doing this to me?'” Davis testified in the trial for the lawsuit he later brought against the department. “They said, ‘OK, just lay on the ground and put your hands behind your back.'”
Davis testified that he cooperated with the officers, lying down on the floor of the cell whereupon a female officer straddled him and cuffed his hands behind his back, at which point two other officers entered the cell and began to beat him.
When the two had finished beating him and left the cell, the officer who had originally slammed him into the wall reentered and kicked him in the head.
Paramedics were called and Davis was taken to a hospital where he refused treatment but demanded that his photo be taken with the blood still on him so that he had evidence of what the police had done to him.
He was then returned to the police department where he was charged with property damage, which meant getting blood on the uniforms of his attackers.
When the officers involved were deposed for the civil trial, every one of them denied that Davis had gotten any blood on their uniforms and all denied ever striking Davis. Officer Michael White, the officer Davis says kicked him in the head, claims that he suffered a bloody nose during the struggle with Davis but that he had not observed any blood on Davis at all.
The prosecutor dropped the property damage charge due to the discrepancies between the depositions and the complaint charging Davis, but the Ferguson police were not yet through. When he filed his lawsuit more than a year later, they charged him with assaulting a police officer.
Conveniently, the VHS tape which should have shown what went on in the cell that night was inexplicably recorded a 32 times normal speed, showing only a blur and was eventually found to have been from 12 hours after Davis was beaten — the tape from that time frame has never been located.
Davis’ suit was dismissed by a judge who found that his injuries were too minor to meet the standards for excessive force, although a CAT scan showed that he had suffered a concussion in the beating, an injury that the NFL takes very seriously.
Davis’ lawyer, James Schottel, has appealed the case and expects to argue it in court sometime in December. He said he expects to have a very good chance of getting the original ruling reversed, considering what has been learned of the department’s methods since Michael Brown was gunned down.