RACINE — A federal lawsuit involving the Racine Police Department and allegations of excessive use of force was paused on July 26 with a possible settlement.
Andre T. Evans filed suit against Andrew Matson, of the RPD, claiming the officer violated his civil rights by tasing him unnecessarily while his family looked on during a 2014 arrest.
The settlement amount for the lawsuit is $20,000.
The Finance & Personnel Committee discussed the settlement during a closed hearing on Monday, Aug. 7. The matter passed out of committee and will be considered by the Racine Common Council on Tuesday.
Matson and Officer Robert Rasmussen responded to a witness report of a burglary in progress at 10:30 p.m. in the 2800 block of Loraine Avenue.
According to the witness, the suspect was an adult Black man wearing a navy jacket, who was last seen running on Jacato Drive.
Matson and Rasmussen saw a person matching the general description of the suspect going into an apartment building on the 2600 block of Jacato and followed him in.
Matson claimed he encountered Evans in the hallway. He said Evans looked startled, dropped a dark item, ignored the officer’s commands, and rushed into his mother’s apartment and attempted to shut the door.
Evans and Matson struggled over the door. When Matson finally got inside, he claimed the defendant “took a boxer’s stance” and refused to get on the ground.
Matson tazed Evans in order to gain compliance and for his own safety, he claimed.
According to Evans, he was compliant and there was no reason for the officer to taze him in front of his family.
Officers retrieved the item Evans dropped in the hall. It was a Smith & Wesson fully loaded pistol.
Evidence suppressed at trial
Evans was arrested and charged with felon in possession of a firearm and resisting/obstructing officers.
He was not, however, charged with the burglary.
At trial, the defense filed a motion to suppress all the evidence on the grounds the officers violated the Fourth Amendment by entering the apartment without a warrant.
The motion was granted in Racine County Circuit Court.
Evans files federal suit
In March 2020, Evans filed a federal suit claiming his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when officers entered the apartment without a warrant, arrested him without probable cause, as he did not match the description of the burglary suspect, and malicious prosecution.
The lawsuit further claimed Matson used excessive use of force by deploying the taser on Evans, who claimed he was compliant.
In March 2022, however, the federal court determined the officers did have probable cause to arrest Evans because there was a close resemblance to the description of the suspect that was broadcast over the police radio and because he (Evans) was in the area where the suspect was last seen.
The federal court also sided with the officers on the issue of the warrantless entry into the apartment.
While the Constitution generally protects the public from warrantless entry and searches of someone’s home, there are exigent circumstances that allow the police to enter without a warrant.
In this case, the interaction between Evans and the police actually began in the hallway of the apartment building with Matson “in hot pursuit” of the suspect.
The court noted suspects cannot simply flee from authorities into their homes to avoid an arrest.
The court also found for the plaintiffs on the malicious prosecution claim, having determined the officers did have probable cause for the arrest.
If the Common Council opts not to settle the case, the trial will move forward with the single charge of excessive use of force.
Editor’s note: Jacato Drive was renamed Anthony Lane in 2015. As this case stemmed from before the renaming (2014), the use of the old name within the article is correct.
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