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|Former Eagle bartender sues city of Atlanta over botched police raid|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|September 13, 2011 14:36|
A former Atlanta Eagle bartender is suing the city of Atlanta and four individual Atlanta police officers in federal court saying his constitutional rights were violated.
Chris Lopez was a bartender at the gay Midtown bar the night of Sept. 10, 2009, when the APD's Vice Unit and the now disbanded Red Dog Unit raided it. He alleges in his lawsuit filed Sept. 9 — before the two-year statute of limitations expired — that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested and then put on trial in Atlanta Municipal Court. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia.
Individual officers named in the lawsuit are Willie Adams, John Brock, Kelly Collier and Brandon Jackson.
Collier was put on administrative leave by Chief George Turner and remains on the force. Jackson has already been fired by the APD for lying in an unrelated case. Adams was fired after the police department was slammed in two investigations of the Eagle raid index.
Brock, who testified at the trial of the Eagle 8, was fired. Brock made anti-gay comments in the independent investigation conducted by former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley and the high profile law firm Greenberg Traurig, including saying gay people were "very violent."
This lawsuit is separate from another lawsuit filed Sept. 9 by 10 patrons of the bar the night of the raid who are represented by Dan Grossman and Gerry Weber. Grossman was the lead attorney in the first Eagle lawsuit against the city that led to a $1 million settlement in December and an apology to the plaintiffs by Mayor Kasim Reed.
Lopez is represented by Atlanta attorney Bill Atkins.
While the police raid was conducted as part of an undercover operation into alleged illegal sex acts and drug use taking place at the bar, no one was arrested or charged with those offenses. Instead, police arrested eight employees including Lopez and charged them with permit violations for allegedly running an adult establishment without the correct paperwork filed with the city.
Known as the "Eagle 8," the men went on trial in Municipal Court in March 2010. Lopez had his charges dismissed and others were found not guilty.
In the lawsuit, Lopez claims he was arrested without probable cause and forced to sit in the City of Atlanta Detention Center for more than 15 and a half hours, a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
Lopez also states in the lawsuit that he was handcuffed to co-owner Robby Kelley, who was also working as a bartender the night of the raid, and forced to sit on the dance floor. When Lopez put his thumb in his pocket, he alleges that Officer Jackson "unclipped his holster and placed his hand on his service weapon."
Davenport then told Lopez, "if he did not take his [hand] out of his pocket that he would shoot Lopez," according to the lawsuit.
The suit also states, "Based upon their prior experience, knowledge and training as a law enforcement officers, the individual defendants knew that no arguable probable cause, much less probable cause, existed to arrest Lopez for violating any criminal statute or city ordinance on September 10, 2009" and that "Under the facts and circumstances alleged herein, an objectively reasonable law enforcement officer in the individual Defendants’ position would have known that no arguable probable cause existed to support arrest, detention and prosecution of Lopez."
The suit also claims the officers used "malice" when arresting and charging Lopez.
Lopez states in the suit he has suffered "pain, suffering, emotional distress, anxiety, humiliation, outrage and loss of reputation entitling him to an award of compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by the enlightened conscience of the jury."
Lopez had filed a complaint with the city of Atlanta seeking $250,000, on Dec. 7 before hiring an attorney and suing in federal court.
Read a timeline of the Eagle raid here.
A town hall forum with Mayor Reed and Chief Turner is planned for Nov. 1 at St. Mark United Methodist Church to discuss the Eagle raid and other public safety issues.
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