Casper police while looking for someone wanted on a warrant wrongfully arrested another man — because of his race — and put false information in a court document to cover up their violations of constitutional law, a lawyer for the man alleged in a legal notice filed with the city and police department.
The allegations came in a legal filing sent to the city and police department that keeps open the possibility of lawsuit for the arrest of Kaleb Clark, 24. The filing — which Ian Sandefer, a Casper attorney, submitted weeks before a two-year time limit was set to expire — means that Clark has retained his ability to sue under Wyoming law governing certain cases against governmental entities.
The notice of claim, which was filed late last month is not itself a lawsuit, but does open the door to one. In the June 22 filing, Sandefer makes a demand of $1 million and gives the city a July 31 deadline to indicate it is interested in settling the case before a lawsuit is filed.
The Casper Police Department this week declined to comment on the allegations or the agency’s plans. By email, a police spokeswoman said that the pending litigation prevented the department from commenting, "so as to not impede or circumvent the legal proceedings.”
Clark, according to the legal notice, was working in 2018 at The Gaslight Social and attending college. In July of that year, police were looking for another man thought to have an arrest warrant out of Johnson County. Police arrived at the bar after closing time and Clark answered the door, letting officers inside. According to the filing, he told the two officers that he was not the man they were looking for, who worked only special events.
Police demanded his identification, but Clark refused to provide it, which Sandefer states was within his rights afforded under the Fourth Amendment.
The officers then handcuffed Clark, and he shouted at them. Police booked him on a count of disturbing the peace and he was convicted at trial of the misdemeanor.
According to the filing, one of the arresting officers — Officer Andrea Husted — is related to a Gaslight Social employee. The police officer called her sister before the arrest and asked if she knew Lucas Sanchez, the man wanted on the warrant. The sister said that Sanchez only worked special events and wouldn’t be at the bar that night, according to the documents.
Husted, though, disregarded the information, the documents allege. When the sister heard about the arrest, the documents state, she called Husted and left a voicemail.
“This is not f——— fair,” the documents state the sister said in the voicemail. “(Clark) is a good person.”
Husted’s arrest affidavit states that Sgt. Scott Jones, another officer on scene, spoke with “Clark’s boss,” who identified Clark as Sanchez. Jones made a similar statement at trial. However, the managers on duty that night said they told Jones the opposite, according to the filing. Husted’s affidavit does not state which of the managers to whom police say they spoke.
The filing alleges that police, by arresting Clark without reasonable suspicion that he was committing a crime, violated his Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unlawful arrest. Police would have known they were breaking the law, the filing alleges, citing a then-recent decision by a Natrona County District Court judge to overturn an unlawful arrest by Casper police.
Police later settled with that man, Tim Haid, for $149,000 and agreed to add language to its policies stating a person, in a consensual encounter with police, has no obligation to provide their name or show identification.
Haid and Clark’s arrests indicate, according to the filing, that Casper police had in place a policy of arresting people who declined to provide ID.
The filing also argues that by refusing to provide his identification, Clark was engaging in constitutionally protected free speech. His arrest, according to the filing, was retaliation for the exercise of the First Amendment.
The filing also alleges that the officers targeted Clark because of his race. Because police knew Sanchez would not be working at the bar that night, and decided to arrest Clark — a light-skinned Black man, whom officers said resembled Sanchez — they violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, Sandefer argues.
By phone on Thursday, Clark said that he’d been disillusioned by the arrest. Clark said that he hopes the filing puts police on notice and moves public sentiment to hold police accountable.
“I worked really hard my whole life not to do anything wrong, not to become a statistic, and it still ended up happening,” Clark said.
He said that he expects cynical people will assume he’s trying to take advantage of a current political climate to extract money from police. But that’s not the case, Clark said. He’s glad, though, that reckoning with police accountability is happening.
“Oftentimes (police) don’t really see consequences for breaking the rules that are set out for them,” Clark said. “(But) when cops do bad things it’s not the same as when a plumber does a bad job.”
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