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Judge: Officer’s force reasonable

January 3, 2019

A federal magistrate has ruled against a man who said a Fort Wayne police officer used excessive force after an arrest in 2016.

Eddie Billingsley, 57, was drunk and handcuffed to a hospital bed Jan. 7, 2016, when he was struck twice in the head by Officer Darrell Caudill. The officer also “took (Billingsley’s) left arm over his head until it popped,” according to court documents.

Billingsley sued the city and Caudill a year later in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, seeking unspecified damages.

Magistrate Susan Collins wrote in an order awarding the case to the city in December that Caudill acted reasonably “under the circumstances.”

Billingsley was arrested after Caudill and another officer were called to a downtown fast-food restaurant, where a man said Billingsley threatened him with a knife. Billingsley was charged in state court with felony battery, but the case was thrown out a few months later by an Allen County judge who found prosecutors negligent when they failed to provide evidence to a defense attorney.

At issue in the lawsuit was Billingsley’s behavior at St. Joseph Hospital, where police took him after the arrest for a blood test to determine his blood-alcohol level : .329, more than four times the legal limit to drive.

He tried to attack Caudill, at one point making a kicking motion that might have landed near the officer’s stomach, court documents state. Billingsley continued those efforts and verbal threats even after he was handcuffed.

Caudill tried to calm him by talking to him and placing a hand on the side of Billingsley’s face. After Billingsley “twisted his lower body and kicked with his right foot,” Caudill “delivered two controlled strikes to the side of (his) head to achieve mental stunning,” the documents state. The strikes knocked out two teeth from his dentures, Billingsley alleged.

Collins found the officer followed police protocol on use of force and wrote in a 22-page order that Caudill could reasonably have worried the man he arrested was a threat to his safety and the safety of others, even though Billingsley was handcuffed.

“The use of escalating force was warranted because Billingsley continued to actively resist Officer Caudill at the time, and despite the handcuffing, he was clearly not subdued and still posed a threat of harm to the officers and the hospital staff,” she wrote.

mleblanc@jg.net

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