County settles suit alleging false arrest, excessive force

Sedgwick County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday after an executive session to pay $75,000 and mediation fees to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a former jail inmate who alleged false arrest and excessive use of force.

The county admitted no wrongdoing in the case, filed against the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Jeff Easter, former Sheriff Robert Hinshaw and three sheriff’s deputies, attorney Ed Keeley said. The county hired Keeley to represent it in the case.

“The defendants deny claims of excessive force and false arrest,” Keeley said Wednesday. “We continue to deny the claims and do not admit liability. We wish the lawsuit to be over to avoid the costs of going to trial.”

Phillip G. Henderson alleged that on July 23, 2012, a sheriff’s deputy falsely arrested him after Henderson left the Citi Host Motel on South Broadway. The deputy “immediately pulled in behind the plaintiff’s vehicle because he was curious as to why the plaintiff was at the Citi Host Motel,” the lawsuit alleged.

Henderson drove two blocks to Bill and Mary’s Bar and “despite the fact that plaintiff signaled his intention to turn left continuously for approximately 190 feet before turning,” the deputy pulled Henderson over for failing to signal to turn, according to the lawsuit.

The deputy arrested Henderson on suspicion of driving while under the influence.

The lawsuit admits that Henderson “was intoxicated and made numerous profane, belligerent and rude comments while in transport.” But Henderson argued that the deputy “but for the illegal stop of plaintiff’s truck … would not have been in a position to make observations that led to his belief that plaintiff was under the influence of alcohol.”

Henderson alleged in the lawsuit that after arriving at the jail, the deputy “forcibly shoved” him to the ground after Henderson moved toward him and “struck him in the back of his head, causing his face and head to repeatedly strike the floor.”

Other deputies “repeatedly kicked, stomped, beat and punched plaintiff about his body for approximately 20 seconds,” the lawsuit alleged.

Mark Schoenhofer, Henderson’s lawyer, said Wednesday that Henderson still suffers from a knee injury and sustained three fractures in his back.

“We’re happy that Mr. Henderson has received compensation for the injuries he received out of that incident,” Schoenhofer said after the commission meeting. Schoenhofer also noted that the DUI case against Henderson was dismissed.