The ACLU of Missouri has filed a lawsuit against a Kansas City Police officer on behalf of a man who had his legs kicked out from under him and his face smashed into the concrete by an officer after he was stopped for matching a vague description of a suspicious person in the area.

Joshua Bills filed the lawsuit against former Kansas City Police Officer Jordan Nelson. During the early evening hours in December 2013, Bills was approached by five officers and was standing calmly with his hands down to his sides at 45-degree angles when Officer Nelson grabbed one of his arms and kicked his legs out from under him, forcing Bills’ body forward down to the ground and smashing Bills’ face directly into the concrete.

Nelson did not attempt to place Bills in handcuffs or ask him to put his hands over his head or behind his back before initiating the takedown. As Bills laid on the ground, the other officers at the scene restrained him, including one officer who knelt on Bills’ back.

About three minutes after the takedown, as Bills was still lying on the ground waiting for medical attention, Officer Nelson re-enacted the takedown for his fellow officers.

The December 2013 incident, which occurred in the 2100 block of E. 34th Street in Kansas City, was captured on video.

“No one should have to go through the physical and emotional pain I experienced from this incident,” said Bills. “I posed no threat to the police and was standing calmly with my arms out when I was slammed into the ground.” “No one should be treated like this by police.”

Nelson’s actions violated Bills Fourth Amendment rights. Under the circumstances, Nelson’s takedown was clearly excessive force.

“Law enforcement must be held accountable for how its officers police the community,” said Tony Rothert, legal director, ACLU of Missouri. “We must look at the department’s approach to use of force, particularly when it comes to communities of color.” 

The Popham Law Firm serves as co-counsel representing Mr. Bills.

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