Alton police officers found not negligent in excessive force case

Kelly Holleran Oct. 4, 2012, 2:00am

A federal jury has found in favor of two Alton police officers who were accused of excessive force against a man who allegedly became distraught following his wife's death.

Alton police officers Stephen January and Andrew Pierson, Alton Memorial Hospital security guard Matthew Wright and Alton Memorial Hospital employee Alan Williamson were accused of using a taser to subdue the distressed Harry Huddleston following his wife's death on Dec. 9, 2008.

"Shortly after learning of her death, plaintiff was unlawfully battered, physically restrained, and forced to the floor by one or more of defendants January, Pierson, Wright and/or Williamson," his lawsuit stated. "The use of any force against plaintiff was unnecessary and excessive."

In their response, the defendants admitted they utilized electric shock on Huddleston, but only after he failed to comply with officer requests and refused to obey lawful commands.

"The amount of force used by these defendants was objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident," the defendants wrote in response to the complaint. "The defendants had legal justification to assist in the arrest of the plaintiff."

In his amended complaint, Huddleston claimed the defendants violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by using excessive force against him.

As a result, he suffered permanent injuries, bruising, burns and pain, according to his complaint.

"The brutal assault on plaintiff at the hands of defendants January, Pierson, Wright and/or Williamson caused plaintiff to be fearful for his life and great fear for his safety," Huddleston's complaint said.

However, the defendants argued that they were provoked into their actions because of Huddleston's response to his wife's death.

"The defendants actions were in self defense in response to the plaintiff's conduct," the response stated.

The defendants demanded a trial by jury.

On Sept. 27, a jury in federal court in East St. Louis found in favor of the defendant police officers. It ordered Huddleston to pay their costs associated with the case.

Huddleston was represented by John W. Bruzek of Ryals and Breed in St. Louis.

January and Pierson were represented by Charles Pierce of Pierce Law Firm in Belleville.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois case number:

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