Man was then cited by police after trying to file complaint, he says
WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – A railroad worker claims in a lawsuit he was physically assaulted by a police officer in Walnut Ridge for simply doing his job – and when he tried to file a complaint, he was charged with two crimes.
Now, the man is suing the City of Walnut Ridge, its police chief, mayor, and two officers involved. Meanwhile, city officials are unable to respond to requests by NEA Report for comment until discussions with legal counsel can take place.
As first reported by The Jonesboro Sun on Thursday, Attorney Mark Rees of Rees Law Firm in Jonesboro is representing the plaintiff, Adam Finley, against the Walnut Ridge mayor, police chief, one officer and one former officer in the Eastern District of Arkansas, Jonesboro division, of U.S. District Court. The lawsuit claims on Dec. 28, 2016, Finley was unlawfully arrested, assaulted, and harassed while working for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
At the intersection of Highway 63 and Highway 91 in Walnut Ridge, Finley was stopped by WRPD officer Matthew Mercado. Mercado asked Finley why he was working on the railroad crossing. Finley was in an unmarked white work truck but had all of his work equipment on including an orange work coat and badge. The BNSF employee explained he worked for the railroad. This is when the lawsuit says Mercado took issue with Finley’s attitude and asked him to step out of the vehicle.
Mercado then allegedly pushed Finley into the door, handcuffed him, and did so while cursing at him. He was eventually un-cuffed and released but not before Mercado told him he would “ride the lightning,” next time.
Finley went to Walnut Ridge Police Department to file a complaint right after this but that’s when he claims he was once again treated unfairly. He said he was interrogated by Chief of Police Chris Kirksey and Officer Matt Cook and following that, cited by Cook for refusal to submit and obstructing governmental operations.
The lawsuit calls this an attempted by the three law enforcement officers to “cover their actions” by charging Finley with two misdemeanor offenses.
Mercado left the department on Feb. 7, 2017.
On April 3, 2018, Finley was acquitted of all charges in Lawrence County District Court.
The lawsuit describes defendant Mercado as having “vicious propensities,” but also alleges the city and mayor at no time took action to prevent police personnel under their supervision from engaging in misconduct.
Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp was unable to comment on the matter to NEA Report when contacted Thursday, saying only that he had requested the Arkansas Municipal League assist City Attorney Nancy Hall on the case. Hall works as the city attorney part-time and at the time, Snapp had not had a chance to discuss the matter with her to be able to respond to it. Kirksey also was unable to respond.
On Thursday, Rees told NEA Report the matter could have been avoided entirely if the complaint had been taken by the city.
“If they would have taken the complaint, reprimanded the guy, and treated my guy respectfully when he entered the department, he wouldn’t have gotten a citation, wouldn’t have hired a lawyer, wouldn’t have came to my office and would have felt they did something,” said Rees. “But you live and learn.”
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages against the defendants for actions it calls “outrageous and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.” Finley demands a jury trial.
The suit targets Mayor Snapp, Chief Kirksey, former Officer Mercado and Officer Cook in both their individual and official capacities.