More than five years after Fred Watson, a Navy veteran, was held at gunpoint by a Ferguson police officer before being arrested, having his car towed and being jailed, he finally achieved a victory when all his charges were dropped.
Watson was part of a Justice Department report that called out Ferguson police for illegally targeting African-Americans, making unconstitutional stops and arrests, and “treating the city’s police and court system like an ATM,” reported The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
All 9 charges against Watson were strangely dropped on Monday.
The Ferguson prosecutor did not notify Watson or his lawyers, said lawyer Blake Strode.
The prosecutor, Lee Clayton Goodman, told the Post-Dispatch that Watson’s case fell within the guidelines set out in Ferguson’s consent decree with the Justice Department, in which the city agreed to dismiss certain municipal court cases.
The Post-Dispatch reported on some of the terrible things that happened to Watson after being illegally targeted by Ferguson police:
After being charged, Watson lost his security clearance, then his six-figure job with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, then his home.
The $58,000 he had saved for his first two years of law school has been spent on food and other daily expenses.
Watson said he has battled depression and is broke. He has been living out of storage units and sleeping in basements and the back seat of his car in Illinois.
Watson said he was “pleased that we moved (the case) from step two to step three.”
The first step was finding an attorney that would take his case.
Step three will be the restoration of his character, maligned by the arrest and charges, and an attempt to remake his life.
“I can’t get the five years back,” he said. His children will not be able to get back missed educational or extracurricular activities, like the Junior Olympics. He will not forget the embarrassment.
“We cannot be made whole. We cannot get that time back,” he said.
There is still a federal lawsuit that Watson filed against Officer Eddie Boyd III and Ferguson.
The suit says that on Aug. 1, 2012, Boyd held him at gunpoint, filed false charges against him, and illegally searched Watson’s car, there was also the matter of missing $2000.
In an interview Tuesday at his lawyer’s offices in St. Louis, Watson said that after a basketball game in Forestwood Park in Ferguson, he was cooling off in his car, watching a nearby baseball game.
He and his friends had already seen Boyd arrest several people at the park that day.
When Boyd approached, Watson lowered his car window. Boyd began by asking if Watson knew why he’d pulled him over.
Watson says he told Boyd he was parked. He wouldn’t provide his Social Security number to Boyd, explaining that given where he works, he couldn’t provide that information.
Boyd drew his gun, even though Watson says he was not yelling or making any sudden moves.
Watson refused to get out of the car until other officers arrived. When they did, he got out, hands up, and then closed his door with his foot. He says he told police that they did not have permission to search the car.
Asked why, Watson says that he is a veteran of police stops, harassment and the abuse of power, although he also stresses that he had never been arrested before the incident, or since.
Watson said Boyd, despite not having permission to search or a search warrant, “just destroy(ed)” the car, throwing things everywhere.
Watson was arrested and given seven tickets. Boyd later added two other charges: failure to comply and making a false declaration in retaliation for Watson’s complaints, the suit says.
After Watson borrowed $700 for his own bail, he had to pay more to get his car out of the tow lot.
Watson said the missing $2,000 was tuition money for his kids’ private school.
The dismissal of all 9 charges is likely to help Watson’s civil suit, as it seems to support the idea that he was harassed by police for no good reason.
Watson’s lawyers have long argued that there was no probable cause for the arrest.