Jury finds former officer's use of force reasonable

By: 
The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal jury has cleared a retired Little Rock police lieutenant accused in a lawsuit of using excessive force when he punched and threw a man to the ground outside a restaurant.

David Hudson was recorded on camera punching Jon "Chris" Erwin in the face seven times in rapid succession as he held Erwin by the collar in October 2011, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The video was viewed thousands of times on social media, and Erwin's face was swollen and cut after the incident. A Pulaski County judge, citing procedural reasons, later dropped misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest against Erwin and a friend.

Hudson testified Tuesday that the altercation occurred after a bartender at the restaurant asked for his help in removing unruly people who had crashed a private party room. He said Erwin became agitated and resisted arrest when Hudson declined to tell him who wanted the group to leave the room.

A jury of seven women and four men heard two days of testimony before siding with the now-retired officer on Wednesday.

Hudson, who is currently a Pulaski County Circuit Court bailiff, said he was acting under the Little Rock Police Department's use of force policy, which allows increasingly harsher tactics for increasing amounts of resistance.

But an attorney for Erwin said Hudson overreacted and, at worst, was dealing with a non-threatening, intoxicated person.

"The world's waiting to see if you're going to make them train officers on the right way to do things," Reggie Koch, one of Erwin's attorneys, told the jury during his closing argument.

Bill James, one of Hudson's attorneys, said Erwin's attorneys wanted the jury to focus on five seconds of tape when there was much more at play.

"We're turning into a society of entitlement, where there are no rules and we have a right to get involved in the middle of an arrest. ... Send a message that we're going to let police officers do what is reasonable."

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