Wrongful arrest case may head to jury
CASPER – The case of a man who says he was wrongfully arrested when Casper police came to his work looking for another man may be heading to a jury, recent court filings suggest.
Kaleb Clark, a Black man, was inside The Gaslight Social after a shift as a bouncer there in the wee hours of July 7, 2018. He was wearing his work uniform and was sober, according to court documents.
Then, according to the complaint in the case, three Casper police officers came in looking for someone else — a Lucas Sanchez, who they were looking for on a warrant out of Johnson County.
When they allegedly accused Clark of being the one they were looking for, he told them he wasn’t, Clark’s lawsuit states. When he refused to show them his identification, they placed him under arrest.
Clark was charged with disturbing the peace for yelling and resisting after officers began putting him in handcuffs, court documents state.
In June 2020, nearly two years after the incident, he filed a claim with the Casper Police Department. In March, he brought the case to U.S. District Court, saying the officers violated the Fourth and 14th amendments in subjecting him to an unlawful search and seizure on the basis of his race.
Now, both Clark’s and Casper’s lawyers are calling for a jury trial to decide the matter.
“The only thing that Mr. Clark apparently did ‘wrong’ was to be sitting in his place of employment with the wrong skin color and refusing to comply with the officers’ unlawful demands,” Clark’s lawyers write in the complaint.
According to a notice filed with the department last year, the officers should have known Clark wasn’t who they were looking for.
One of the officers, Andrea Husted, had a sister working at the bar who the lawsuit states told her earlier in the day that Sanchez only worked there for special events, and wouldn’t be there that night.
According to court documents, the general manager on duty that night and an off-duty assistant manager, along with multiple other employees, told the officers that Clark was not Sanchez and that they didn’t look anything alike.
Clark’s original claim states Husted put false information in the arrest affidavit to cover up signs of an unlawful arrest.
In court filings, lawyers representing the officers say their actions were authorized by law. The affidavit also states one of the officers, Sgt. Scott Jones, confirmed with the manager that Clark was Sanchez before arresting him.
But documents state that at trial, Jones testified that the manager correctly identified Clark as himself.
The department, via a spokesperson, declined to comment on the case, citing the pending litigation. Attorneys for the city and officers also said they would not comment, and Clark’s legal team did not respond to a request to speak Monday.
In 2017, Casper police arrested a man for interference after he refused to identify himself to officers responding to reports of him sitting in a parked car outside his girlfriend’s house, waiting for her to get home. He appealed his conviction, and a Natrona County District Court decision said — just one month before Clark’s arrest — that citizens who aren’t suspected of a crime have no obligation to give their name or identification to law enforcement.
As part of the settlement in that matter, which won the man nearly $150,000, CPD agreed to update its policies to reflect the ruling.
Clark’s complaint states that the department and, by proxy, the city failed to adequately train or supervise officers to handle the situation. Clark’s filings say that CPD had a “custom, policy, pattern and practice” of arresting people who refuse to hand over information officers asked for “but were not entitled to collect.”
In their answer to the suit, the city’s lawyers deny that practice was in place at the time. The document also asserts the officers’ qualified immunity, as part of their post, should protect them from the suit.