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Exonerated Taser Victim sues Greenwood Police

Thursday, April 11, 2019, 5:20 pm News Flash Archive

Bert Keys lay disabled face down on the ground, after being tasered by a member of the Greenwood Police Department SWAT team.

Then, Keys heard another police officer yell, "tase him again!"

After the second tasing, Keys was handcuffed and taken off to jail, where he remained for 4 days until he could post bond.

Keys has had his run-ins with the police before. In 1999 he went to prison on drug-related charges, and he's had several brushes with the law since then. But now at the age of 44, he's providing for his wife and children, involved in the community, and coaching a youth baseball team.

But the SWAT team wasn't responding to a call or a complaint at all. Instead, police officers showed up, provoked a dispute with Keys, and assaulted him several times without any apparent valid reason for doing so.

Now, having been completely exonerated of all charges against him, Bert Keys has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Greenwood, Police Chief Ray Moore, and police officers James Layton, Byron Granderson, Dylan Peden, Lenard Paige, and unknown others.

Keys' suit, which is one side of a legal dispute, charges that the city and police department have an "unlawful policy or custom of permitting and encouraging SWAT teams to engage in harassment, search and arrest of citizens based solely on their color (black) and their neighborhood in violation of their individual constitutional rights."

Implementation of that unlawful policy, Keys asserts, led to his arrest, torture, and incarceration.

According to the lawsuit, about 10 pm on the first Friday night of September 2016, a Greenwood Police SWAT team arrived at a small short order food establishment near the old KFC restaurant on Main Street, to "conduct a search for males standing on the streets and side walk loitering," according to a police investigative report.

Keys was leaning against his truck, waiting to pick up his food order, along with various other patrons.

According to the lawsuit, Officer Layton grew angry when Keys refused his request to search his truck, and demanded that Keys leave the vehicle and go inside to await his order. When Keys refused, he was attacked from behind by Officer Peden, and when Keys swung around to face his attacker, Officer Granderson tasered Keys. Then, as Keys lay helpless on the ground, he was tasered a second time.

After spending 4 days and nights in jail, Keys made bail.

While Keys was in jail, Police Chief Ray Moore told the Greenwood Commonwealth that Keys was being held for the MDOC on a parole violation. He also claimed that Keys had been observed rolling a marijuana cigarette. The next day, the police department admitted that there was no request from MDOC to hold Keys, and that he was not charged with any drug violation.

Instead, Keys was charged with disorderly conduct-failure to comply, threat on an officer, and a parking violation.

But the city never prosecuted any of the charges. After two years had passed, on November 7, 2018, Municipal Court Judge Carlos Palmer dismissed all the charges against Keys with prejudice, and expunged them from the record entirely.

Keys' lawsuit states that, without any lawful reason, he suffered unnecessary search, seizure, and unlawful use of force by the officers. In addition, he was wrongfully imprisoned, subjected to front-page unwanted, humiliating, and untrue publicity as a result of the police officers' false charges. Further, Keys points to Chief Ray Moore's "blind, willful, reckless and false acceptance and ratification" of those false charges, along with other false statements made by Moore to the newspaper.

Keys claims that the police had no reasonable suspicion or probable cause to order him to leave his vehicle, or to torture, arrest, search and confine him for four days, all of which would violate the 4th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

Keys is asking for a jury trial, and for the award of damages, compensatory and punitive, as well as costs and attorney fees.

Keys is represented by Greenwood attorney Tom Calhoun and Ronald Lewis of Oxford.

The lawsuit may be viewed here: Keys v. City of Greenwood et al.

John Pittman Hey
The Taxpayers Channel

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