Three Evansville police officers sued for using excessive force in a 2018 traffic stop

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CASPER, Wyo – Three police officers from Evansville and the city are being sued in federal court for damages after plaintiffs allege “gross excessive force” following a May 2018 traffic delay.

A civil lawsuit filed in Wyoming District Court this week says Brandon Wuebker, an unarmed passenger, was arrested without reasonable suspicion, pepper sprayed, tasered and forcibly thrown to the ground by officers, resulting in a concussion and stitches led to close a head wound. He was arrested and charged with obstructing a peace officer, although the charges were dropped in February 2019.

Evansville Police Sgt. Luke Nelson, Patrol Officers Matthew McGraw and Bryce Norcross, and the city of Evansville are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Two of the defendants have not worked for the city for a while, according to Evansville Police Chief Mike Thompson, who joined the department in August 2018.

The documents show Wübker was the backseat passenger in a vehicle that Norcross stopped during a routine traffic stop on May 20, 2018. None of the passengers had outstanding warrants, the complaint said.

Wübker asked permission to use the restroom at a nearby gas station, a need that “became increasingly urgent,” the complaint says. The officers asked him to stay in the car.

After a front-line passenger called Nelson a “f—ing pig” and f—ing a—,” Nelson “declared his own intent to get revenge and “beat up these people,” the state says.

After Wübker tried to slowly “climb out of the back seat of the two-door vehicle” so he could go to the bathroom, officers “yelled” that he was under arrest, told him to get out of the car, and tried to grab him forcibly remove him.

“None of the defendant officers could reasonably have feared for his safety as a result of Mr. Wübker’s conduct or the circumstances he faced,” the lawsuit states.

Officer McGraw then pepper-sprayed Wuebker and dragged him out of the vehicle, while Officer Norcross “suddenly, without warning, fired his taser into Mr. Wuebker’s chest” and “rammed him headfirst into the road,” the suit reads.

The lawsuit states that Wübker was crying, was compliant and posed no risk of flight or threat, but suffered two consecutive knee blows and the use of tasers.

The behavior of the officers is described as “blatantly unconstitutional”. [use] of excessive force” and a violation of Wübker’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.

None of the officers were disciplined for their actions, nor was any officer notified by police command that their conduct was outside of approved department practice or practice, the lawsuit says.

The City of Evansville “failed to adequately train, supervise, and discipline each defendant, despite the apparent need for scrutiny in specialized training, supervision, and discipline in relation to search, entry, and seizure decisions,” the statement reads the lawsuit.

“Accordingly, failure to provide such adequate training constitutes a policy for which Evansville is responsible and for which the City may be held liable as it did in fact cause Mr. Wuebker’s injuries.”

Body cam footage of an arrest in Evansville in May 2018. The officers are now engaged in a lawsuit in federal court. (US District Court)

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