Detention of 16-year-old boy with Down syndrome may have violated his rights, holds Sixth Circuit

Ortiz v. Kazimer, No. 15-3453 (6th Cir. Feb. 4, 2016).

Two Cleveland police officers were looking for armed-robbery suspects. They received a tip directing them to an apartment building near the robbery. When the officers showed up, someone who matched the description of one of the suspects ran away. 

Officer Brian Kazimer chased after the runner, disregarding a resident who stepped in front of him and told him that he must be chasing the wrong guy, since the person he was following was Juan Ortiz, a 16-year-old boy with Down syndrome. But the chase continued until Kazimer caught up with Ortiz in the parking lot, where Kazimer admits Ortiz surrendered to him. Kazimer grabbed Ortiz, slammed him into a vehicle, and kept him pinned there for fifteen minutes, all while Ortiz was making no effort to resist and was crying out in pain. Residents gathered round to say that Ortiz hadn’t done anything wrong. Kazimer, for his part, said that Ortiz was lucky he hadn’t been shot. 

Meanwhile, the real robbers had been caught elsewhere. A police dispatcher radioed this news to Kazimer, who then let Ortiz go free.

If these facts are believed, were Ortiz’s constitutional rights clearly violated? The Sixth Circuit says a jury could so find, so Ortiz’s claims against the police are sent back for a trial.