ST. LOUIS — The American Civil Liberties Union sued two St. Louis police officers in federal court here Friday, claiming the officers violently arrested a homeless advocate in retaliation for her filming two other arrests.
Sharon Morrow’s lawsuit says she was downtown on April 14, 2019, to hand out food and supplies to the homeless. Using her cellphone, she started to film the arrest of someone, then caught the arrest of another person, during which police used a Taser, the suit says.
She told police, “This guy didn’t do anything. He did nothing,” the lawsuit says. After the second arrest, Officer Steven Ogunjobi told Morrow and others to move back or they would be next, the suit says. Morrow got in her car and tried to leave but was blocked in by police vehicles.
Ogunjobi ordered her to leave again, then he ordered her out of her car. Ogunjobi and Officer Jacob Stein pulled her out, forced her arms behind her back and swept her legs out from under her, slamming her face first to the asphalt, according to the suit. The encounter caused her “excruciating pain” and neuropathy in her arms and hands and muscle stiffness that lasted months after her arrest, she said.
She was charged with interfering with a police officer and resisting arrest, but the charges were later dropped, the suit says.
A police spokeswoman declined to comment on pending litigation.
“These officers retaliated against Ms. Morrow because she exercised her right to record their misconduct,” Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement Friday. “Ogunjobi and Stein knew no force was necessary against her because she was compliant, non-threatening, nonviolent and committing no crime. St. Louis must stop ignoring its officers’ abuse of powers if there is any hope that the police will gain the trust of the community.”
In February, a jury in St. Louis Circuit Court awarded $3,500 to a University City woman who said she was shocked with a Taser by Ogunjobi after a 2015 protest. The jury found in favor of Ogunjobi on an assault count and in favor of another officer on separate counts of assault and battery.