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Ferguson Witness Dorian Johnson Got Arrested After Filing a Lawsuit Against the Police

He was arrested in an altercation with St. Louis cops hours after suing the city of Ferguson for inflicting emotional distress on him the day he watched Michael Brown die.

by Allie Conti
May 8 2015, 4:00am

Police in Ferguson. Photo via Wikipedia

On Wednesday, Dorian Johnson sued former Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson and Officer Darren Wilson, as well as the municipality itself, for assaulting him, inflicting emotional distress, and violating his constitutional rights when Wilson shot and killed his friend Michael Brown last summer. In the suit, Johnson, who was 22 at the time of the incident, asked for at least $25,000 in damages.

In their lawsuit, Johnson's attorneys quote heavily from the US Department of Justice report that found local cops and city officials colluded to use Ferguson's black population as a revenue source by saddling them with questionable charges and tickets. For instance, they mention that African Americans account for 67 percent of the Ferguson population but comprised 93 percent of arrests between 2012 and 2014.

But within hours of the lawsuit being made public, Johnson got arrested in nearby St. Louis.

An anonymous St. Louis Police source told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that officers were called to investigate a large gathering of men on Wednesday afternoon around 3:30 PM. One of these men allegedly grabbed the arm of a police officer to prevent him from patting down another man with a large bulge in his waistband. When Johnson then yelled at the officer, he was arrested, and is now being charged with resisting or interfering with arrest. (Johnson also allegedly dropped cough medicine mixed with a narcotic on the ground, but rumored drug charges seem to have gone away after the drink was found to contain no drugs, according to the paper.)

Johnson is an especially contentious figure in one of the most explosive American crime stories of the last decade. On August 9, according to his own witness testimony, Johnson met up with Brown, a new friend of his, to smoke a blunt. The latter stole a pack of cigarillos from a convenience store, and on the way home, they got into a confrontation with Wilson.

There remain plenty of differing accounts about exactly what happened next. Johnson maintains the cop grabbed Brown from inside his police car, starting the altercation that left his friend dead.

However, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson, and a separate federal probe concluded that, contrary to Johnson's account, Brown's hands probably were not up when Wilson shot him.

Of course, the news of Johnson's arrest invited speculation in some corners of the internet that it had something to do with the lawsuit. Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the video of Eric Garner's death on Staten Island this past summer, was arrested for allegedly carrying a handgun after that story blew up, and Orta's supporters insists there's a smear campaign against him.

Johnson's attorneys, on the other hand, did not return requests for comment. As of this writing, it's unclear if their client is still in police custody.

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