Former Cougars cornerback accuses Pullman police of excessive force in 2017 arrest

November 6, 2018

A former Washington State University football player is suing the Pullman Police Department, alleging two officers used excessive force while arresting him at a convenience store in February 2017.

Treshon Broughton, who graduated from WSU last year after two seasons as a cornerback, claims the officers repeatedly struck his head and inappropriately deployed a Taser into his back while holding him on the ground. He also claims the officers violated his due-process rights and “intentionally misrepresented events” to support charges of resisting arrest and obstructing law enforcement, which were later dismissed.

The lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington after the city of Pullman rejected a tort claim seeking $5 million in damages. In addition to the city and the police department, the suit names the two officers who arrested Broughton: Shane Emerson and Alex Gordon. It also specifies that Broughton is a black man, though it does not explicitly accuse the officers of acting with racial bias.

Police Chief Gary Jenkins and City Attorney Laura McAloon on Monday referred questions to Spokane attorney Kelly Konkright, who has been hired to defend the city of Pullman against the lawsuit. Konkright didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Broughton, who now lives in California, is represented by Lewiston attorney James Grow, who could not be reached for comment Monday.

Broughton was arrested at Bob’s Corner Market in the early morning of Feb. 18, 2017. According to charging documents, employees later told police Broughton had tried to buy a cigarette lighter with an obviously fake $20 bill. After his arrest, however, officers searched him and found no money, counterfeit or otherwise.

The lawsuit states that a store employee had called 911, “however, during the conversation with the dispatcher the caller affirmatively stated that everything was good at the store and then terminated the phone call.” The dispatcher had also called back, and the employee had confirmed “that everything had been figured out such that no further assistance was needed.”

Police responded anyway. According to charging documents, Officer Emerson arrived just before 2 a.m. and found Broughton arguing with store employees. The lawsuit states that Broughton “was engaged in discussions with the store clerk wherein Broughton was retrieving a personal belonging that had been left at the store earlier that day.”

According to charging documents, Emerson asked Broughton to show identification, but he refused to cooperate and the officer suspected he might run. Emerson grabbed Broughton’s arm and tried to place him in handcuffs, but Broughton resisted and threw his arms in the air, questioning why he was under arrest, the documents state.

Emerson wrote that Broughton appeared drunk and that his breath smelled of liquor. He wrote, “I did not feel comfortable with his resistance and felt it was prudent to fully detain him.”

The lawsuit, however, offers a different version of the encounter, saying Broughton tried to retrieve his driver’s license to show the officer.

“Before Broughton had time to comply with the demand for identification, Officer Emerson grabbed Broughton’s arm and started to physically assault Broughton and forced Broughton to the ground,” the lawsuit states. As Emerson pinned him down, “Broughton’s driver’s license, which he was trying to provide to Emerson, fell to the floor and was ultimately picked up by another officer.”

According to charging documents, Officer Gordon tried to subdue Broughton with a “lateral vascular neck restraint” – a type of neck hold intended to restrict blood circulation but not air flow – but Broughton managed to get out of that hold. His lawsuit makes no mention of the maneuver.

“We took Broughton to the ground and he remained on his knees, pushing up with his arms,” Emerson wrote. “For the record, Broughton was a member of the 2016 WSU football team and from my training and experience appeared exceptionally strong.”

According to charging documents, Gordon deployed his Taser into Broughton’s upper back after issuing a warning that Broughton ignored. The lawsuit states that Gordon electrocuted Broughton “while Broughton was restrained with his arms wrenched behind his back.”

“The use of the Taser was a significantly violent level of force,” the lawuit states. Paramedics were called to remove the barbed Taser darts from Broughton’s back.

The lawsuit also claims that after his arrest, the officers threw a handcuffed Broughton to the ground – an act that was “objectively unreasonable and unnecessary.”

Broughton was booked into jail on charges of resisting arrest and obstructing law enforcement, both gross misdemeanors. There, officers reported, he began yelling and kicking his cell door, stripped down to his underwear and jammed the toilet to flood his cell, and was twice placed into a restraint chair. At the request of the prosecutor, a Whitman County District Court judge dismissed the charges against him in June 2017.

The lawsuit states that damages “include, but are not limited to, medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of freedom, bodily injury and injury to his reputation.”

The tort claim, which was filed prior to the lawsuit in August, states that Broughton “suffered emotional distress which, among other things, resulted in him being unable to attend a professional football scouting event and eliminated any chance of (him) being recruited to a professional football team.”

This is the second ongoing lawsuit accusing Pullman police of excessive force. A WSU student with schizoaffective disorder filed suit in August, alleging an officer fractured and dislocated his arm while arresting him inside a Jack in the Box restaurant in 2016.

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