Appeals court revives inmate's suit against Phoenix police

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PHOENIX (AP) -

A federal appeals court paved the way Friday for an Arizona inmate to pursue a lawsuit against Phoenix police for excessive force, overturning its dismissal by a lower court.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Charles Edward Byrd's account that two officers "beat the crap out of" him was not "too vague and conclusory" to make a claim and should be given consideration.

The three-judge panel wrote Byrd's colloquial phrasing still made it clear that he was making allegations of excessive force. They said his description of his injuries also added to his allegations of excessive force.

[RELATED: Phoenix Law Enforcement Assn. defends officer's use of force]

The ruling overturns U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake's dismissal of Byrd's 2016 complaint. Wake said Byrd failed to identify what force officers used or why they used it.

According to Byrd, Officers Robert McKinney and Timothy Thiebaut stopped him for riding a bike with no headlight. They then searched him and his belongings before they "beat the crap out of" him. Byrd said the incident left him with severe body pain, emotional distress and the loss of 70 percent of his vision.

Byrd is currently serving 10 years in state prison for drug possession after police recovered methamphetamine he threw while being questioned. The result of his lawsuit would not affect his conviction, the appeals court said.

[RELATED: Phoenix police association says detectives overworked, understaffed]

City officials released a statement disputing the court's finding.

"We are confident that the actions of the police officers complied with the Constitution. And the officers believe that in the near future, the district court will conclude that their conduct met all constitutional requirements."

This is not the first time an appeals court has reversed a ruling in Byrd's favor. Byrd sued the Maricopa County sheriff's office, alleging it violated his privacy by allowing female guards to observe him showering and using the bathroom while he was held before trial.

The 9th Circuit in January 2017 overturned a lower court decision that dismissed Byrd's lawsuit and sent the case back for additional consideration.

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