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Pierce County, Washington Pays $2,500 Settlement for Violation of Civil Rights and Missing Vehicle

Washington State’s Pierce County paid $2,500 to settle a claim for violation of civil rights and misplacing a vehicle.

For no apparent reason, Officer J. Billings of the Steilacoom Police department activated his emergency police lights and pulled over Byron Burris. Billings approached Burris’s vehicle as Burris exited his. Billings forcibly grabbed and then threw Burris to the ground, smashing his face to the pavement, and kneeing him as he hand-cuffed him.

Burris was transported to the Pierce County Jail and without due process. He was denied seeing a court judge or magistrate and it was six to seven days before he could post a $1,000 bail. Burris was given a court date, but no documentation on his arrest, nor the towing of his vehicle.

On April 9, 2003, Burris appeared in court and was advised that all charges had been dismissed “due to violation of his civil rights” and being wrongfully held in jail. Burris asked the Court clerk where his vehicle was and she stated “she would check on it.”

From May 9, 2003 to September 30, 2003, Burris contacted the court clerk several times, asking where his vehicle was. The response was always the same: she is not here or we are checking on it.

Burris’s claim sought damages for the violation of his civil rights, loss of his vehicle, wages, pain and suffering. Pierce County settled the claim on October 24, 2005. Burris was represented by Olympia attorney Hugh McGavick.

See: Pierce County Department of Risk Management, Claim No. T.04.140

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Related legal case

Pierce County Department of Risk Management