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Jury finds Idaho officer used excessive force

Published: Friday, June 24 2011 11:53 p.m. MDT

LEWISTON, Idaho — A federal jury says a former Lewiston police officer used excessive force in in apprehending a suspect five years ago.

Kevin E. Mays sued in U.S. District Court three years ago, contending he was beaten and Tasered by four Lewiston police officers and Nez Perce County deputies when they were called to check on his welfare on Dec. 23, 2006. The Lewiston Tribune reports that the jury, empaneled in Coeur d'Alene's U.S. District Court, cleared three officers of wrongdoing but found that former Lewiston police officer Donald Blair used excessive force in the encounter.

The jury also found that Mays, who originally asked for more than $75,000 in damages in a tort claim, wasn't entitled to any punitive damages. Mays was awarded nearly $2,000 for his medical expenses.

The incident happened when Mays' then-girlfriend called police to say she was worried he was suicidal and had a weapon, according to court records. Police encountered Mays in North Lewiston a short time later, and Mays said that they attacked him, beat him and used a Taser on him. Police took a pocketknife from Mays but he was not armed, according to court records. Mays was charged with misdemeanor obstructing law enforcement, but a jury acquitted him.

The federal jury found that the use of the Taser was not excessive, but taking Mays to the ground was, his attorney Gregory Rauch said.

"He's pretty happy that they recognize that it was in fact excessive force," Rauch said of his client, "though he feels his life has been affected by the police quite a bit more."

The jury found that there was no wrongdoing by Lewiston police officer Mike Rigney and Nez Perce County deputies Sgt. John Hilderbrand and Joe Rodriguez.

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