Barine Deezia

Barine Deezia

The city of Lincoln has settled a Texas man's false arrest and excessive force lawsuit for $110,000 for an altercation in 2016 where, he said, police body-slammed him, then put him in a chokehold.

Barine Deezia filed a motion to dismiss the case last week in U.S. District Court, a week after the City Council approved a settlement agreement "in excess of $50,000."

The City Attorney's office originally denied requests for a specific amount, pointing to a confidentiality agreement. But, in response to a public-records request, the office released the settlement agreement Wednesday.

It included a confidentiality agreement and a provision that the parties not make any comments to the media about the case.

The city made no admission of wrongdoing.

Court records made it clear the parties were working toward a settlement following a federal judge's ruling last fall that Deezia's case against the police officers could go forward.

"Whether a reasonable officer would have interpreted plaintiff's actions as 'active resistance' or an 'attempt to flee' is a disputed question of fact that a jury must decide," Senior U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf wrote.

An assistant city attorney had argued that the officers who approached Deezia and his friends downtown as bars were about to close on March 20, 2016, used a reasonable amount of force under the circumstances and that the case should be dismissed.

In 2017, a Lancaster County jury found Deezia not guilty of obstructing and resisting arrest in the interaction that started when officers spotted a woman who appeared drunk in Deezia's group.

Police — trying to determine who overserved her — asked where she had been drinking and were told she was fine, didn't have any alcohol at a bar and was going home with a designated driver.

But officers followed and kept asking questions.

Deezia told the woman she didn't have to talk to them.

What happened next depends on who you ask. The three Lincoln officers involved wore body cameras, but none were turned on until after Deezia was on the ground and unconscious.

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Street-camera footage of 14th and O streets skipped at the crucial moment when Officer Aaron Peth grabbed Deezia's arm to move him away.

[Watch: Surveillance footage from case that accuses Lincoln police of excessive force.]

Deezia said he tried to move back to get away from the officers and was pushed into the front window of a sandwich shop, causing him to lose his balance and stumble.

Police say Deezia was resisting arrest.

When an officer attempted an "inside takedown" maneuver, Deezia's head hit the sidewalk, knocking him out, and his shoulder was fractured.

"When plaintiff regained consciousness, he was lying face-down in a pool of blood with an officer's knee in his back," Kopf said.

Both sides say Deezia hadn't been aggressive until officers made physical contact with him. All he'd done up to that point was verbally refuse to provide information to officers, not itself a crime, Kopf said.

"Plaintiff has presented sufficient proof in support of his claim, if believed, to allow a reasonable jury to find that after 'seizing' plaintiff ... the officers used a degree of force in arresting him for two misdemeanors that was not 'objectively reasonable,'" the judge wrote in the Oct. 29 order.

Deezia, who was a business owner in Lincoln at the time but since has moved to Texas, said in a tort claim (a precursor to the lawsuit) filed within a month of the incident that he has profound respect for law enforcement.

His father, a longtime police officer in Nigeria, was killed in the line of duty in 2012, and his uncle and sister both are police officers there.

Deezia, a Doane University graduate who was pursuing a master's degree, said he never had been involved in any violent confrontations with law enforcement before the incident in Lincoln.

Neither he nor his lawyer, Rick Boucher, commented on the settlement.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.


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