On December 1, 2019, a Maryland Heights police officer conducted a traffic stop that produced what the department's chief would later describe as a "most unfortunate incident" for Demetrius Biggs.
According to details in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed last week, that Sunday was the day officer Adam Munoz and a second cop detained Biggs at gunpoint and forced him into the back of a police vehicle to question him. However, the officers didn't arrest or even cite Biggs. They let him go with his passenger still seated in the back — a passenger identified in the lawsuit as "A.B," Biggs' six-year-old daughter.
Attorney Allison Stenger, who is representing Biggs and his daughter, said the father and child "were both very traumatized by this occurrence." She added that the lawsuit, which is seeking damages, is also intended to "ensure no one else goes through what he and his daughter went through."
The lawsuit alleges that Munoz had turned on his emergency lights and "sped alongside" Biggs' vehicle before "sharply and violently pulling in front," nearly causing a crash.
"Officer Munoz incorrectly believed his vehicle was struck by Plaintiffs’ Vehicle, prompting him to report a ‘10-50’ and call for backup from every available officer employed by the Defendant City of Maryland Heights," the suit contends.
The next thing Biggs saw, according to the lawsuit, was Munoz and a second officer approaching his car and aiming their firearms "directly at" him.
"Although he was never accused of, or charged with, any crime, Mr. Biggs was
forced from Plaintiffs’ Vehicle at gunpoint, handcuffed, placed in the backseat of Officer Munoz’s squad car, and interrogated," the lawsuit alleges.
Biggs was able to leave the scene, but he didn't leave the incident in the past. His official complaint to the Maryland Heights police triggered an internal investigation into Munoz's actions. While it's not known what evidence the investigation uncovered (such as audio or video recordings), whatever the investigation did
find led to disciplinary action less than three weeks later.
In a letter dated December 18, 2019, Maryland Heights police Chief Bill Carson informed Biggs that the internal investigation had been completed. (The letter was filed as an exhibit in the recent lawsuit.)
"The result of that investigation disclosed sufficient evidence to support the allegation in your complaint," Carson wrote to Biggs. "As a result, disciplinary action has been taken against Police Officer Munoz in compliance with the personnel rules of the City."
Reached Thursday, Carson told RFT
that he was familiar with the incident but that he could not comment without approval from the city's legal department, which had not yet reviewed the lawsuit. He did confirm that Munoz is still employed in the department where he's served since 2018
However, in Carson's December 2019 letter, the chief had pledged that "corrective action" would be taken to prevent "a reoccurrence of this most unfortunate incident." Carson did an offer an apology to Biggs, but did so without stating in any way what manner of misfortune had visited the father and his young child when Munoz pulled them over.
"The department takes great pride in the manner in which our officers serve this community," Carson wrote. "I apologize for the conduct of the Officer and for the inconvenience to you."
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com
- Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.
- Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.