1/19/2016Oregon Cop Fined $181,170 For Kicking Motorcyclist
Jury finds Oregon police captain liable for $181,170 in damages for delivering karate kick to motorcyclist during a traffic stop.
A jury last Thursday found an Oregon State Police Captain negligent for ramming a motorcyclist and kicking him in the chest. Captain Robert Wayne Edwards was ordered to pay Justin Michael Wilkens $181,170 in damages over the August 3, 2012 police chase that left Wilkens with a broken collarbone and two fractured ribs.
On that afternoon, Wilkens was enjoying a spirited ride on Crow Road in Eugene when he drew attention to himself by passing a state trooper in an unmarked black Camaro. Captain Edwards -- then a lieutenant -- flipped on his flashing emergency lights, but not the siren, initiating a three-minute chase. Wilkens says he never saw those lights.
"You can't turn around 100 percent behind you when you're riding a motorcycle," Wilkens testified. "For one, you don't want to do that because you take your eyes off the road. The mirror on the motorcycle vibrates. His car was an undercover car with low-profile lights.... When I found out that I was getting pulled over, I pulled over."
Wilkens had never seen a black Camaro cop car before. This particular unit had very small red and blue lights located in the grille, along with a light at the top of the windshield (view photo of the Camaro and sportbike).
"It's more of a commuter transport vehicle versus a traffic enforcement car," Captain Edwards testified.
Wilkens made at least one illegal pass over a double yellow line, and Captain Edwards estimated his speed at one point reached at least 80 MPH. By the time Wilkens arrived at the intersection at Eleventh Street, he slowed, pulling into a turning lane. With his turn signal activated, Wilkens stopped on a narrow shoulder and placed his feet on the ground. At this point, Captain Edwards rammed the 2006 Aprilia sportbike, knocking Wilkens over and causing damage to the front end of the Camaro.
"He nearly took my leg off," Wilkens explained. "On a dial clock, twelve o'clock facing forward, he hit me at about 7:30. And when you have your foot on a peg on a motorcycle, that's about 8:30."
Wilkens quickly stood up, with his arms extended, palms up. Captain Edwards exited his vehicle with his gun pointed at Wilkens. Although Captain Edwards yelled to tell Wilkens to get down on the ground, between the helmet and the active siren, Wilkens said it took him a second or two to realize he needed to get on the ground. As he started moving down, the trooper gave him a karate kick to the chest. The officer later expressed surprise that his kick was preserved on tape.
"I did not think that car's video system was working properly, so I didn't think we had video of this incident," Captain Edwards admitted.
The district attorney's office never filed charges against Wilkens, but the motorcyclist decided to sue for damages after his medical bills and other expenses topped $31,000.
State police lawyers insisted that the motorcycle "unexpectedly stopped" and that the Camaro was unable to slow in time because of "brake fade." The jurors did not buy this argument, instead finding Captain Edwards "negligent" for striking the sportbike. They also declared the kick to the chest to be an excessive and unconstitutional use of force.
The judgment covers the expenses, plus $100,000 for pain and suffering and $50,000 in punitive damages.