A couple has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against three Papillion police officers regarding a 2019 traffic stop.
Jason Storrs and Amber Smith, represented by the ACLU of Nebraska, allege that the stop violated their rights in multiple ways, citing unlawful detention, excessive force and retaliation against the protected activity of filming police.
According to a complaint filed in federal court Tuesday, Storrs was driving Smith home from Smith’s work at Shadow Lake Towne Center about 7 p.m. on Dec. 29, 2019, when Papillion police officers stopped the couple’s vehicle and ordered them out of the car.
Papillion police had recently responded to reports of a shoplifting at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Shadow Lake Towne Center, located at 7775 Olson Drive. According to the Papillion Police Department, Storrs’ vehicle matched the suspect vehicle description and was pulled over near 66th Street and Highway 370.
There was a “use of force incident involving a taser,” and ultimately, the department said in a statement, officers determined the couple had no involvement in the shoplifting and were released without charges.
Storrs was complying with all requests and standing still when he was shot with a stun gun in his arms, torso and genitals, and Smith was thrown to the ground, according to the complaint.
The Papillion Police Department said the incident was internally reviewed by the department and externally reviewed by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
Both investigations, according to the Police Department, found that no criminal activity occurred on the part of the officers — named in the lawsuit as Sgt. Kurt McClannan, Sgt. Preston Maas and Officer Travis Rozeboom — and no department policies were violated.
The results of the external criminal investigation were reviewed by the Sarpy County Attorney’s Office, which concluded that the use of force was justified, the Police Department said.
The descriptions of the shoplifting suspects did not match Storrs, his partner or their vehicle, the ACLU of Nebraska said. Dispatch had reported that the suspects were either four Black women or a Black woman and Black man driving in a four-door silver Plymouth. Storrs is Black, Smith is White, and they were in their two-door silver BMW.
After an officer informed Storrs and Smith that he was pulling the vehicle over because of a reported shoplifting at Dick’s Sporting Goods, they denied having been at the store and asked for the officer’s name and badge number, according to the complaint filed by the ACLU. The two “used profanity toward” the officer, but they never “failed to comply with the officers’ commands, threatened violence, or engaged in violence or physical resistance toward the officers at any time.”
Smith was taken by ambulance to the hospital as a result of her injuries.
Storrs said he feared for his life during the traffic stop.
“We were wrongfully accused, violated and scared,” Storrs said. “Through this entire stop, we were never given the benefit of the doubt even though we had done nothing wrong. We were just trying to live our lives. We’ve seen too many situations like that end with a Black man dead. That’s why I want accountability.”
The lawsuit requests the court find police deprived the couple of their rights and award damages as the court sees fit.