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February 24, 2013

Fort Lauderdale settles false arrest lawsuit for $62,500, Sun Sentinel

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Fort Lauderdale settles false arrest lawsuit for $62,500

February 24, 2013

By Larry Barszewski, Sun Sentinel (Reprinted)

FORT LAUDERDALE — A Deerfield Beach man wrongly handcuffed and frisked by police in a 2009 undercover narcotics operation will receive $62,500 from the city for false arrest and for violating his civil rights.

A federal district judge last month issued a summary judgment in favor of Jeffrey Dowling, 48, holding the city liable and setting a trial date to determine what the city would have to pay.

Rather than go to trial, commissioners approved the settlement at their Feb. 19 meeting.

"The [major narcotics unit] was following a suspect at the request of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) at the time of the incident and mistakenly believed that the plaintiff was somehow connected to the DEA suspect," City Manager Lee Feldman explained in a memo to commissioners.

The Jan. 6, 2009, incident occurred after federal agents informed police about a drug trafficker in a van with a kilo of cocaine, according to the summary judgment.

Officer Shannon Dameron stopped the van at a Kwik Stop on Hillsboro Boulevard in Deerfield Beach. Dowling's car pulled into the parking lot shortly after the stop and Dameron claimed to have seen Dowling speak to the van's driver, which Dowling denied, according to court documents.

Dameron told Detective Mike Freeley, who handcuffed and frisked Dowling. Dowling and his girlfriend said they had stopped to get lottery tickets at the store after picking up lunch at a nearby Popeye's Chicken.

Federal District Judge James Cohn ruled Freeley didn't have reasonable suspicion to detain Dowling and didn't have probable cause to frisk him. Cohn said Freeley should not have used handcuffs because there was no indication Dowling, who was cooperating with police, was a flight risk or posed any danger.

While Dowling was handcuffed for 20 minutes, the actual suspect was never handcuffed or arrested, the summary judgment said.

"Jeffrey's civil rights were violated and justice has been served," said his attorney, Gary Kollin. "Hopefully, this will never happen again."

By Larry Barszewski, Sun Sentinel (Reprinted)

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