Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman Can Sue for Unlawful Arrest; Police Tackled and Arrested Her While She Was in Premature Labor

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman Can Sue for Unlawful Arrest; Police Tackled and Arrested Her While She Was in Premature Labor

Article excerpt

Byline: LAW & DISORDER

A woman forcefully detained by Jacksonville police as she rushed to a hospital in premature labor can sue for unlawful arrest but not excessive force, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Melanie Dawn Williams, 28, was seven months pregnant and headed to St. Vincent's Medical Center on doctor's orders in 2005 when she ran a red light in Riverside and fled from police. She was chased by two officers then tackled in the emergency room and dragged, handcuffed, back outside.

Eventually a nurse came outside, found Williams bleeding from premature labor and insisted she be taken to the hospital's labor and delivery unit, where doctors successfully staved off labor. She spent 10 days in the hospital. The officers were disciplined.

One officer told internal affairs investigators Williams didn't mention being pregnant until they cuffed her, but a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said that doesn't matter. Once officers knew she was in medical distress, probable cause for an arrest ceased, the court found.

But the judges also said Williams cannot pursue a separate excessive force claim because the officers used reasonable force to make the arrest.

"Williams was miraculously not harmed," the court said. "Although we agree ... that the deputies' behavior was reprehensible, we disagree that the evidence supports a finding that the force was excessive."

The appeals court sent the case back to Jacksonville for further proceedings. U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard scheduled a status hearing Dec. 1.

Paul Pinkham

POLICE LOOKING FOR KILLER IN MONCRIEF ROAD SHOOTING

Jacksonville police are looking for whoever shot and killed a man in the parking lot of a club on Moncrief Road early Wednesday.

A police spokesman said two people were arguing inside Moncrief Liquor, described as a club/package store, in the 5700 block of Moncrief Road.

After the patrons were told to leave the club about 12:30 a.m., the argument began again in the parking lot and ended with a gunshot. When police arrived, a man was dead on the ground.

Police do not have a suspect in custody. …

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