Let’s go to the videotape 

Cops and courts

In October, James Lucas and his wife Tami filed suit against Kalispell and its police department over what they allege was an excessive use of force by two officers during a 2004 arrest of James.

Last week, the Independent received a video of the incident from the city’s lawyer. The footage ultimately provides more questions than answers.

It begins with Tami, who had just been arrested for DUI, opening a door into a hallway at the Kalispell Police station. Somewhere outside the hallway, James is audibly arguing with police officers.

James, according to his attorney, refused to leave the police station after his wife was arrested.

Officer Tony McDon-nell escorts Tami out of the hall, and a few moments later James enters, escorted by officer Carl Bris-endine. James is handcuffed behind his back, having been arrested for disorderly conduct, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of $100.

Officer Brisendine then searches James, who, standing directly beneath the camera, is no longer visible, as officer McDonnell reenters the hall and goes to a nearby counter. When Brisendine bends down to pat James’ ankles, there’s a sudden commotion. Brisendine stands, and McDonnell rushes over. Both officers grab James and whip him to the floor, face first. With his hands cuffed behind his back, James is unable to break his fall and his head strikes a chair, then the tile floor.

James had allegedly tried to “horse kick” Brisendine in the head as Brisendine patted down his ankles. James pleaded “no contest” to a charge of assaulting an officer, which is not an admission of guilt, and a judge sentenced him to three years probation.

Whatever happened between James and Brisendine, James’ Missoula-based lawyer, Matthew Stevenson, says, “I see no justification for that level of use of force.”

James’ lawsuit alleges that the officers caused him permanent brain damage.

But Todd Hammer, a lawyer for the city and the police department characterized the officers actions as “standard procedure” when reacting to an attempted assault on an officer.

As of press time, no hearing dates had been set for the case.
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