Thomas Taylor, a decorated sergeant with the Los Lunas Police Department, says he arrested a man for having a bad attitude.
A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Taylor was wrong, finding that he acted without probable cause.
The case dates to 2007, when Taylor and Officer Robert Ferreyia responded to a complaint of a loud argument at the home of a man named Michael Storey. Storey told the officers that, yes, he had argued with his wife, but that she had left their house before police arrived.
It was Storey's good fortune that Taylor, wearing an audio belt, recorded what happened next.
After hearing a tape of the confrontation, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a district judge who had ruled for the police.
"The question we consider is whether the officers had probable cause to order Storey to step outside his home and arrest him when he refused to do so... We conclude the officers lacked probable cause and exigent circumstances to justify the arrest, and the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment does not apply here," the appeals court stated.
Here is a key section of the police tape recording:
Taylor: Now, what started the argument?
Storey: Do I have to tell you everything?
Taylor: Yes, you do. You have to tell me what’s going to be safe.
Storey: I do not have to tell you anything.
Taylor: Sir, step out of the house.
Taylor: Step out of the house.
Storey: I’m not doing it.
Taylor: You’re going to step out of the house.
Taylor: Listen. You shall obey my command and step outside the house or you go to jail. Step outside.
Storey: I am not doing that.
Taylor: Step out of the house.
Storey: Why are you doing this?
Taylor: You are going to comply with a lawful order. You don’t want to deal with this, you can go to jail.
"At this point, Taylor appears to have pulled Storey outside, handcuffed him and placed him under arrest," the appeals court stated.
Taylor: You’re going to jail because you refuse to comply, because you’ve got a case of the attitude.
Storey: I’ll lay down on the ground if you want me to.
Taylor: Nope. You want to be a smart alec, and you want to think you’re going to tell me your rights? ... You’re required to obey me when I issue you a lawful order. So now you can go to jail. Take him to jail. Resist to obey, $2,500.
Storey's wife, Theresa, returned home while the officers were questioning him. Then she became entangled in the confrontation. Theresa Storey brought an unlawful detention claim against Taylor and obtained a judgment against him, according to court records.
A district judge ruled in favor of the police on Michael Storey’s claims of wrongful arrest and retaliatory arrest. But the judge allowed Storey’s claim of excessive force to go to trial. The jury did not reach a verdict on the excessive force claim, which Storey has since given up.
Circuit Judge Tim Tymkovich wrote the decision reversing the district judge's ruling. Joining him in the ruling were Chief Judge Mary Beck Briscoe of Lawrence, Kan., and Judge Bobby Ray Baldock of Roswell, N.M.