An article posted by the Huffington Post on Sunday evening reveals that Justin Cosma, a Ferguson police officer who arrested two reporters for sitting at a McDonald’s in Ferguson, is currently dealing with a civil rights lawsuit due to an incident where he hog-tied a 12-year-old boy. The lawsuit was filed in 2012 and derives from an incident in 2010, when Cosma was employed by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Cosma had just started working for the Ferguson police department when the lawsuit was filed. It is quite possible that the pending litigation was a contributing factor to him moving jobs.
Per the lawsuit, Cosma and another officer became confrontational with the child and intimidated him. Eventually, they threw the boy to the ground and choked him. The following is from the HuffPost article:
According to a lawsuit filed in 2012 in Missouri federal court, Justin Cosma and another officer, Richard Carter, approached a 12-year-old boy who was checking the mailbox at the end of his driveway in June 2010. Cosma was an officer with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at the time, the lawsuit states. The pair asked the boy if he’d been playing on a nearby highway, and he replied no, according to the lawsuit.
Then, the officers “became confrontational” and intimidated the child, the lawsuit claims. “Unprovoked and without cause, the deputies grabbed [the boy], choked him around the neck and threw him to the ground,” it says. The boy was shirtless at the time, and allegedly “suffered bruising, choke marks, scrapes and cuts across his body.”
The 12-year-old was transferred to a medical facility for treatment, but the lawsuit says Cosma and the other officer reported the incident as “assault of a law enforcement officer third degree” and “resisting/interfering with arrest, detention or stop.”
Jefferson County prosecutors “refused to issue a juvenile case” against the young child, the suit says.
This is just the latest revelation among many regarding St. Louis area police officers that have come out in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Recently, St. Louis County police officer Dan Page, a 35-year veteran of the force, was suspended indefinitely when video surfaced of him at an Oath Keepers event making extremely inflammatory and offensive statements. Among many outrageous comments, Page said the following:
“I’m into diversity. I kill everybody, I don’t care,” St. Louis Police Officer.
I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my lord savior, but I’m also a killer. I’ve killed a lot. And if I need to, I’ll kill a whole bunch more. If you don’t want to get killed, don’t show up in front of me, it’s that simple.”
Page was in Ferguson during the protests, and there is footage of him forcefully pushing CNN’s Don Lemon back along with a number of demonstrators. Lemon was later the one who brought attention to a YouTube video of Page making his hate-filled speech.
Besides Page, we’ve seen another officer suspended due to his pointing a gun at protesters and cameramen and telling them, “I’ll f***ing kill you!” When protesters asked his name after he said that, the officer said, “Go f*** yourself!” The officer was later identified as Lr. Ray Albers, a 20-year veteran with the St. Ann police department. Albers was suspended without pay and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation. The suspension came on the heels of a YouTube video showing the altercation. You can see the video here (I am not embedding it due to profanity in the title and throughout the video).
At the same time Page was suspended, another St. Louis County cop, Michael Pappert, was also put on leave after hateful Facebook posts he made about Ferguson protesters were made public. Per Raw Story, a sampling of his Facebook posts featured the following:
I’m sick of these protesters. You are a burden on society and a blight on the community,” wrote Michael Pappert, in one of at least five posts that have gone up since Sunday.
“These protesters should have been put down like a rabid dog the first night,” he added.
In a reference to the Boston Marathon bombing, he also wrote: “Where is a Muslim with a backpack when you need them.”
The revelation of Cosma being involved in a civil rights case alleging he abused a minor is sadly unsurprising at this point. In the wake of Brown’s killing, a bright light has been shone on St. Louis area police departments, and the results have not been pretty. However, it would be naive to think that these issues are only affecting St. Louis County and that other metro-area police departments are free of bad actors or racial disparity. The fact is, only because of the media spotlight focused on Ferguson are we aware of these underlying issues and abusive officers in the county.