The wheels of justice finally turned for Steve West on November 19, when a U.S. District Court judge ruled that two Bullhead City police officers had wrongfully stomped West--a wheelchair-bound paraplegic--in 1989. Judge William Copple awarded West $816,000 in medical costs and general and punitive damages for the one-sided confrontation (That Must Have Been One Tough Paraplegic," Michael Lacey, November 4), during which officers Ted Roper and Richard Brown combined to: break West's leg during the course of an unlawful arrest; ignore West's cries for medical care once the leg was broken; kick West in the groin while placing him, handcuffed, in their squad car; deliberately leave West to lie on the floor of a holding cell for several hours with his pants around his ankles and his genitals exposed; book West as "John Doe--they knew his name--to prolong his jail stay.
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The court ruled that the officers also violated West's constitutional rights by bursting into his trailer that day--January 29, 1989--without permission or a warrant, the act that precipitated the stomping. Roper and Brown claimed under oath that their actions were provoked by West, who they said violently resisted arrest and tried to grab Roper's gun.
But Judge Copple found that West had done nothing to cause his own injuries and that the officers had broken West's leg "in the course of an unlawful arrest," then "showed callous, deliberate indifference to a serious medical need."
Roper and Brown confronted West at his trailer as part of their search for Dan "Animal" Whiteside, a fugitive on an outstanding felony drug warrant who had assaulted a woman outside a nearby bar. The woman had directed the police to West, who had been drinking with the couple in the hours before Whiteside assaulted her. Whiteside was not in West's trailer when the police arrived. Several witnesses--including an Eagle Scout on a police ride-along--then observed the brutal collar by Roper and Brown. The arrest put West in the hospital for four months. Bullhead City officials, who still may appeal the judgment, did not return telephone calls. Because of likely legal delays, West won't see any of Bullhead City's money until sometime next year at the earliest. Still, West--who made a return trip to the hospital because of court-related stress--says he's relieved this phase of the proceedings is over. Once all the legal maneuvering is played out (West's attorneys are trying to recoup their legal fees from Bullhead City, so that considerable chunk won't have to come out of the award money), West says he'll spend part of his check on therapeutic equipment for himself.
"I'm gonna have the things I've been needing for some time," he said last week, referring to a sauna and other devices. "It'll be nice to have the things you're supposed to have." Plus, he said, "I do have some debts to pay." West added he intends to give at least a portion of the money to a charity he would not name. "It'll be a good cause," he said.