A federal judge ruled that a Monona police officer violated a Black man's constitutional rights by entering his home and arresting him because of a neighbor's racial suspicion, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
The plaintiff, Keonte Furdge, filed the lawsuit in 2020; the court will now move on to decide his damages.
Furdge and a friend were invited to move, for a couple of months, into their high school coach's deceased mother's home.
When a neighbor saw Furdge sitting on the patio on June 2, 2020, she called the police stating there was an African American intruder at her neighbor's home.
When an officer arrived on the scene, Furdge was in the bedroom.
The first officer went inside without a warrant or permission to do so and asked Furdge, "You want to come out here?" But Furdge, who appeared to be talking on the phone or singing did not respond.
Then the second officer arrived.
Drawing their weapons, they yelled, "Police—come out with your hands up,” and Furdge complied. Furdge was then handcuffed until more officers came on the scene; the officers then learned from other neighbors that Furdge was an occupant of the home. The officers apologized to Furdge.
The incident was captured on an officer's body camera.
U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson agreed with Furdge’s lawsuit that the first officer's entry was "a clear-cut violation" of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated," without probable cause,” the fourth amendment says.
According to the ruling, Peterson found, Jared Wedig, the first officer who entered, ineligible for immunity. The second officer, Luke Wunsch, is only liable for detaining Furdge, not the entry.
Although Peterson said the officer's conduct was wrong, he did not agree that they were "malicious or in reckless disregard of Furdge's rights,” so he threw out Furdge's claim for punitive damages.
One of Furdge's attorneys, John Bradley, said, "The decision should remind all police officers in Wisconsin of that fundamental right: In America, police cannot enter a home without a warrant and without probable cause."
"Put yourself in his shoes and imagine how you would feel if you were him, one week after George Floyd was murdered, folding your laundry, when police officers storm in, unannounced, and point their guns at you,” said Rick Resch, another attorney representing Furdge said.
Jasmyne Baynard, one of the lawyers representing the officers, said they respect the judge's decision "and appreciate his understanding that the officers’ conduct demonstrated a good-faith effort to protect the community by investigating what they believed to be a possible crime.”
"Police officers are often asked to make decisions, based on incomplete and imperfect information, as here," Baynard said.
Resch said the next step is to let a jury decide on his client’s compensation.
A trial is set for March.