SPRINGDALE, Ark. — A federal jury has awarded $7,000 in punitive damages to a Springdale man after it was found that excessive force was used by Springdale Police during a 2016 arrest.
According to Springdale Police, on Feb. 19, 2016, detectives were posted on Henryetta Street outside Johnnie Rochell’s home, doing surveillance on a house down the street.
Rochell says he tried three times to talk to Officer Cody Ross by waving at him through the window of his unmarked police car that was posted outside his house.
After being ignored, Rochell says he went inside, strapped an automatic rifle on his back, and walked back to his front yard, not knowing what was going on outside his home.
“Officer Ross maintained for all five years that Rochelle never used the weapon in a threatening or active way," said Matt Bender, Rochell's lawyer.
Court documents say Ross then got out of the unmarked vehicle with his gun pointed at Rochell, without identifying himself as an officer, shouting "put down the gun, or I will kill you."
Rochelle told 5NEWS that he thought he was being robbed, so he put up his hands, slowly removed the rifle from his back, and laid it on the ground away from his feet.
Rochelle says the officer tackled him to the ground, pressed his knee against his back, and pointed the gun at the back of his head.
“I was targeted for my race. I thought they were going to kill me that day. It felt like a modern-day lynching. It was bad,” Rochell said.
The lawsuit says officers then mistakenly arrested Rochell for being a felon in possession of a firearm, after mixing him up with someone out of Mississippi County, Arkansas. Once the mistake was realized, Rochelle was released from the Springdale jail the next day.
"On September 22, 2021, a jury found against Officer Cody Ross in a use of force case. While we respect the jury’s findings we support Officer Ross as he evaluates his options," said the Springdale Police Department in a statement to 5NEWS.
The trial extended over a three-day timespan concluding on Sept. 22, taking the jury five hours to reach their verdict.
Officer Cody Ross is currently a Springdale School Resource Officer after working with the Springdale Police Department since 2009.