A Twin Cities man is suing the city of St. Paul and four of its police officers, alleging that they used excessive force and violated his constitutional rights during an arrest this past summer.
The suit, filed Thursday in Ramsey County District Court and moved to federal court, asserts that the officers did not have a right to enter a duplex to arrest Deontrae K. Morehead during a family birthday party on Aug. 14.
Morehead, 22, is suing the city and officers Anthony Spencer, Richard Beard, Steven Jaworski and Joseph Dick.
"Our hope is that a lawsuit like this will signal to police officers that it is clearly established in the law that you must have a warrant or consent or exigent circumstances to enter a home," said Morehead's attorney, Tim Phillips.
The suit also alleges that the officers committed battery, assault and false imprisonment, and that they violated Morehead's Fourth and 14th Amendment rights by arresting him without a warrant.
St. Paul police declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. The officers' work histories and personnel files were not immediately available.
Morehead was jailed and charged that day with obstructing the legal process. The case was dismissed the same day.
The St. Paul city attorney's office didn't return a message seeking comment on the dismissal. Phillips didn't represent Morehead in that matter, but said, "My suspicion is that my client was charged with a crime that he didn't commit, and that's why it was dismissed."
Morehead's suit gives this account of his arrest: The officers stopped by the duplex in the 1000 block of Ross Avenue because people appeared to be drinking outside. Morehead saw the officers and went inside. From the entrance of an enclosed porch, he asked why they were there.
Spencer approached Morehead and asked him to step out, but Morehead moved into the common stairwell area.
The suit alleges that Spencer followed him, grabbed his shirt and told him he wasn't arrested, but had to be identified.
Dick then sprayed a chemical irritant in Morehead's face.
Beard and Jaworski came in, and the four officers pulled Morehead outside.
Police reports of the incident show that Spencer and Dick were on "proactive patrol" when they saw "numerous" people outside the duplex.
"They were loud as we passed by, then upon seeing the squad car, they quieted down," said one report listing Spencer as the primary reporting officer.
The officers instructed the group to quiet down and drink inside. Three men went in and then upstairs, the report said.
"We were concerned we may have just disrupted criminal activity … and that was why the three fled back into the house," the police report said.
The officers called for backup. Spencer wrote that Morehead was "belligerent and yelling at officers demanding to know why we were there."
Spencer said that he grabbed Morehead's shirt and tried "to pull him out," but that Morehead resisted, "screaming at me that he didn't have to and that he was scared."
Morehead was the only one arrested.