A man alleges Lincoln police officers manipulated their body cameras during an encounter downtown last year where they slammed him to the ground and knocked him out, according to court documents.
Barine Deezia's attorney leveled the allegations in Deezia's federal lawsuit against the department over excessive force, as an attorney for the city sought to have the case thrown out.
"The officers, individually and in concert, manipulated the cameras on/off functions for dramatic effect, resulting in evidence that was tainted, spoiled and fabricated, all in an attempt to frustrate justice," Deezia's attorney, Rick Boucher, wrote in the court brief.
The city's attorney in the case, Elizabeth Elliott, didn't respond to a request for comment on the allegation.
In court documents, Elliott contended the case should be dismissed because Deezia hasn't alleged any facts showing his constitutional rights were violated.
The officers in this case, the city attorney said, used a reasonable amount of force under the circumstances.
Several officers approached Deezia and his friends around 2 a.m. near 14th and O streets on March 20, 2016.
The officers were trying to determine where a woman with the group had been drinking, according to the lawsuit.
An officer slammed Deezia into a restaurant's storefront window after Deezia told the woman she didn't need to answer their questions, the lawsuit said.
The officers then took Deezia to the ground and his head hit the sidewalk, rendering him unconscious, he said.
Deezia was arrested and charged with obstructing and resisting arrest.
At trial in November, jurors saw some video of the incident, including street-camera footage showing most of the scene.
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But that footage skipped at the crucial moment when Officer Aaron Peth put his hand on Deezia's chest to push him away and the immediate aftermath.
The three Lincoln officers involved wore body cameras, but none were turned on until after Deezia was on the ground, knocked unconscious.
The jury found Deezia not guilty of obstructing and resisting arrest.
In the brief, Boucher alleges Officer Gregory Graham's camera was intentionally turned off at the height of the encounter and wasn't turned back on until after Deezia lost consciousness.
This, Boucher alleges, is contrary to city rule, regulation and standard operating procedure.
Graham testified at trial that he turned on the camera to record a possible disturbance outside a nearby bar and then kept it on during the initial encounter with Deezia's group.
He didn't remember if he or another officer turned it off just before they crossed the street, Graham testified.
The two other officers didn't record anything until after Deezia was unconscious, according to the lawsuit.
At the time of the incident, the policy governing Lincoln police officers' use of body cameras didn't specifically address when to start and cease recording.
Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister implemented a body camera policy in January in accordance with a new state law requiring departments with body cameras to have policies on their use.
The policy discourages officers from turning off their body cameras when taking a police action.