The lawsuit was the result of a Nov. 13, 2003 raid in northeast Reno. In the course of the raid, which involved several local law enforcement agencies, armed suspected drug dealers ran into a barber shop. Police officers armed with assault rifles entered the barbershop and ordered everyone to lie down. Three of the suspects, — local boxer Kelvin Davis, Ruby Jean May and Robert Spears — filed a lawsuit claiming police officers used excessive force during the incident, violating their constitutional rights. The cities of Sparks and Reno, Sparks Police Chief John Dotson and several individual police officers were defendants in the suit.
The Nevada district judge in the original case found the police officers had probable cause to arrest Spears for rock cocaine and acted reasonably when they ordered the patrons to the floor in light of the potentially dangerous situation. The judge also found there was no medical evidence to support Davis' claims that his hand injuries were caused by his handcuffing, rather than by his boxing career. The plaintiffs appealed the case to federal court.
Monday’s federal ruling dismissed all excessive force claims and sent just one issue back to the lower court for review: a possible unlawful search that led to Spears’ arrest.
Sparks City Attorney Chet Adams praised the efforts of Tom Riley, senior assistant Sparks city attorney who defended the case, saying his efforts savedtaxpayers more than $500,000 in claimed damages.
"We have constantly supported the professional men and women of the Sparks Police Department in their ongoing efforts to protect our community from the crime associated with drug use and sales,” Adams said. “This should send a clear message that we do not settle these types of cases because our primary duty is to Sparks' citizens."