Kristine Hendrix

Kristine Hendrix held up two candles of hope after marching from Canfield Green Apartments to the Ferguson Police Department on MLK Day 2015.

Photo by Lawrence Bryant

A St. Louis jury awarded Kristine Hendrix, a 36-year-old mother of three boys and the elected school board president in the University City School District, $3,500 after she was tased three times by St. Louis police following a protest in 2015.

Hendrix had filed a lawsuit in 2017 against two St. Louis police officers for assault, excessive force/battery, false arrest and imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.

The St. Louis Circuit Court jury found in favor of Hendrix on only one battery count against St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer Stephen Ogunjobi.

“I am trying to see the positive in that they recognized that battery occurred,” Hendrix said. “I’m disappointed they didn’t see the extent of Ogunjobi’s actions because when they are not held accountable, there’s a danger that the practice and culture of misconduct will continue.”

On Friday, May 29, 2015, Hendrix was leaving a Black Lives Matter demonstration on Washington Avenue, which had originally started as a silent march by Busch Stadium at 8 p.m.

The group had already moved to the sidewalk and were making arrangements to go back to their cars when the police “ambushed” them, Hendrix told the St. Louis American in a 2015 interview. During the arrest, another protestor had handed his phone to Hendrix, who continued to videotape as she walked away on the sidewalk in an attempt to disperse.

In her arrest, Hendrix was already on the ground with one arm handcuffed behind her back when a police officer tased her body at least three times – all within less than one minute.

During the closing arguments on February 20, Hendrix’s attorneys played video clips recorded on the phone Hendrix had been holding. She was heard crying, “Stop, please stop. It hurts.”

In the video, Officer Louis Wilson, who is white, is heard telling her to put her hand behind her back, while Ogunjobi – who is black – was shooting debilitating electrical currents into her body at the same time. Both officers were named in the suit.

Lawyers from the City Counselor’s Office defended the police officers in the case. In the defense’s closing remarks, City Counselor Erin Kathleen McGowan recited Hendrix’s words after she was tased, “Why did you do that? I wasn’t doing anything.” McGowan argued that if Hendrix was really in “excruciating pain” wouldn’t have been able to say that.

She also said that Ogunjobi was justified in tasing Hendrix because he thought she had a “closed fist.” McGowan also argued that tasers immobilize suspects quickly, and Ogunjobi “wanted it to be over as soon as possible.” 

McGowan argued that the burn mark on Hendrix’s breast was “mild” and her physical injuries were minor.

Hendrix was charged with resisting arrest and interfering with vehicular traffic, but she was later acquitted of both charges. On December 1, 2016, Circuit Judge Nicole Colbert-Botchway acquitted Hendrix of resisting arrest, concluding that the “evidence presented in this case does not establish that Ms. Hendrix was ever given an opportunity to comply before she was tased repeatedly and then handcuffed.”

Colbert-Botchway stated in her judgment that it was clear from the video and from Wilson’s testimony that he and Ogunjobi approached Hendrix from behind.

“[T]he ‘pop’ sound of Officer Ogunjobi’s taser clearly can be heard as he applies it to Ms. Hendrix for the first time. Within a couple of seconds of that Ms. Hendrix can be heard saying ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. Why did you do that? I wasn’t doing anything?’” Colbert-Botchway stated.

“An officer can be heard saying ‘Put your hands behind your back,’ but before he even finishes the sentence the sound of Officer Ogunjobi administering another cycle of tasing to Ms. Hendrix can be heard, and she screams. In response to the officer’s command, she then can be heard saying five times in succession ‘I can’t it hurts! I can’t it hurts!’ then ‘It hurts so bad, please, please stop.’ She repeats this several more times, then Officer Ogunjobi tases her a third time. Again, Ms. Hendrix screams, then says, ‘Oh my God, why are you doing this, I’m on the ground.’”

Colbert-Botchway continued: “Ms. Hendrix was being electrified almost continuously before the officers handcuffed her. This Court believes Ms. Hendrix [sic] testimony—which is bolstered by the audio from the video recording—that she could not comply with Officer Wilson’s command that she put her arms behind her back. The Court finds this to be so because for much of the time she was on the sidewalk one arm was pinned under her, she was being tased repeatedly in quick succession, and between the tasings she was telling the officers repeatedly that ‘I can’t! It hurts!’”

ArchCity Defenders, a local nonprofit civil rights law firm, represented Hendrix.

The American was not able to reach the attorneys for comment but will update the article as they are received.

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