Eau Claire Police Officer found guilty of violating man's civil rights with 2019 traffic stop

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Four and a half years after a traffic stop in Eau Claire, the police officer who initiated it has been found guilty of violating the driver's civil rights.

The federal case stems from a traffic stop off Keith and Clairemont on October 7, 2019. Officer Sam Sperry pulled over Sidney L. Coleman. According to police officials, Sperry had witnessed multiple traffic violations before initiating the stop. Coleman argued in his complaint that he was racially profiled.

During the traffic stop, officials said officers searched the vehicle and found drugs. They then obtained a warrant to search Coleman's room at the Regency Inn & Suites.

The jury determined last week that Officer Sperry initiated the traffic stop without reasonable suspicion to believe Coleman had committed a traffic offense or a crime.

"I am extremely disheartened by the jury’s verdict and the damages awarded in this matter. The facts of this case demonstrate the actions of our officers were appropriate and not malicious," Police Chief Matt Rokus said in a press release.

Eau Claire Deputy City Attorney Doug Hoffer told News 18 the decision by the jury is "baffling" and that Officer Sperry was acting appropriately.

"It's really difficult to understand how this decision was reached," he said. "I understand in today's social environment there are people that treat law enforcement with a level of skepticism, and when that's warranted I think we're all comfortable with that, but here it clearly isn't, and it's a baffling and disappointing decision."

Coleman is being awarded $550,000 in damages. Now, the city of Eau Claire is working with their insurance company to decide the best way to appeal this verdict.

The jury found Officer Sperry not guilty of using excessive force.

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