I want my kids to live in a world where people with guns and power are held to the same standards as the rest of society.
My boys were taught that the police officers who protect and serve our communities are to be respected and trusted. That trust was destroyed on Jan. 8, 2018, when they were stopped at gunpoint, forced to lie on the ground, handcuffed and searched.
On this cold, rainy night the boys had spent the evening with their grandparents and were walking the short distance back to my house. This walk home turned into a nightmare that still haunts them to this day because an inexperienced police officer in Springdale, Arkansas, overreacted to a dispatch report about some alleged gang members who had fled during a traffic stop earlier that evening.the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language
When officer Lamont Marzolf encountered my kids, who were just 12 and 14 at the time, he could have acted in a professional manner, asked them some questions, and it would have been readily apparent (1) they didn’t come close to matching the description of the suspects, and (2) they were just young kids walking back to their mom’s house after spending time with their grandparents.
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In a just and reasonable world, this conversation between my children and officer Marzolf would have resolved the situation and everyone could have gone on with their lives. Instead, he jumped out of his patrol car, drew his weapon, pointed it at my children and escalated the situation beyond all bounds of decency.
Within a minute of this event, as is clear in dashboard camera footage, I approached Marzolf, told him I am their mother and let him know they were just walking home. His response was to yell at me, point a Taser at me and order me to “get back.” Their stepfather also came and identified the boys. He was ignored. Three minutes after that, their grandparents approached the scene, identified my sons and said they had just left their house.
Despite every conceivable fact pointing to the conclusion that Marzolf had the wrong people, my kids had a weapon pointed at them, were forced to the ground, handcuffed and searched – and had their trust in law enforcement betrayed.
We turned to the courts for justice
After this horrific event, I filed a lawsuit in federal court against Marzolf to vindicate the rights of my kids, to let them know what happened wasn’t right, and to try and ensure this sort of traumatic event doesn’t happen to anyone else’s children.
After the lawsuit began, Marzolf filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. This subject was unfamiliar to me. In essence, qualified immunity means officers are shielded from civil liability for their actions unless their conduct was egregious and violated a clearly established constitutional right. If the story I outlined above isn’t “egregious” or a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights, I’m just not sure what would ever rise to that level.
The court denied Marzolf’s motion, but he appealed the qualified immunity issue to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s decision and, in essence, shielded Marzolf from liability for his actions.