MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 19, 2013

Jury awards man $30K from city

Judgment for unlawful arrest in 2010

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— A Muskogee man was awarded $30,000 by a federal jury who agreed he was unlawfully arrested in 2010.

The lawsuit concerned a patrol stop made by Muskogee Police Officer Troy Buller April 11, 2010, on Darryle Deshawn Chatman, of Muskogee.

Court documents state Buller stopped Chatman, 29, while Chatman was walking across the street near the intersection of 15th and Fremont streets. Buller, according to documents, ordered Chatman to stop. Buller then got out of his vehicle and pointed his Taser at Chatman, who, according to documents, stated that he “wasn’t going to do nothing.”

Chatman was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance (cocaine base) and resisting an officer.

Chatman was bound over for trial May 10, 2010. The case was dismissed three months later at the state’s request, when dashboard camera video footage of the arrest was produced. Chatman’s attorneys alleged the footage showed Buller being verbally and physically abusive to Chatman, including physical strikes that cause “bruising all over his body, including his neck.”

In an arrest affidavit submitted to the court by Buller, the officer said he was concerned Chatman may have had a weapon after Chatman placed his right hand into his right pocket, then withdrew it, then placed his hand in front of him.

Buller said the area where Chatman was arrested was a high-crime area also known for gang activity, which necessitated the use of “street vernacular” to “convey they serious nature of my order in the hope (Chatman) would comply.”

Buller said he ordered Chatman to his knees, and Chatman complied, though he would not go to the ground despite “at least eight commands.”

The jury agreed that:

• Buller lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory detention of Chatman.

• Buller lacked probable cause to arrest Chatman.

• Buller used excessive force on Chatman.

Chatman was awarded $20,000 for unlawful arrest and $10,000 for excessive force.

Muskogee City Attorney Roy Tucker said the city’s insurance group handled the case and would handle the award.

“We determined that (Buller) was acting within the scope of his employment, and we notified (the Oklahoma Mutual Assurance Group,)” Tucker said. “They provided the defense, and any award given is from that front.”

Tucker added that an appeal of the decision would be likely.

Buller was cleared in December of any wrongdoing stemming from the use of a Taser a month earlier on a handcuffed, hospitalized woman. The FBI and the Muskogee County District Attorney’s Office ruled that Buller and another officer were “within policy” in the altercation.

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.