October 8, 2009 in City

County OKs settlement in Taser case

By The Spokesman-Review

A Spokane County reserve fund will pay some $112,000 to a man who was shocked three times with a Taser by a deputy during a traffic stop in 2005.

County commissioners approved a settlement this week with Spirit Creager, a painter who had sued the county for $5 million in 2006, saying he couldn’t work or sleep for weeks after being jolted by sheriff’s Deputy Chad Ruff.

The county’s risk management reserve fund will also pay $25,000 to Creager’s teenage son, who was in the truck shortly after midnight on Aug. 30, 2004, when it was stopped on Dartford Road. The son witnessed the altercation between Creager and deputies, causing emotional distress, according to the family’s claim.

A report filed by Ruff said that Creager was stopped because he was speeding and had a burned-out taillight. In checking the license plate, the deputy said he discovered Creager’s license had been suspended. The deputy said he smelled alcohol when he approached the truck and ordered the driver out.

At that point, Ruff’s version of events differed greatly from that of Creager and his girlfriend, Mattie Whitney, who was also in the truck. Ruff said Creager was alternately compliant and hostile, refusing commands to stand in a position where he could be checked for weapons or to lie on the ground. Creager and Whitney said Ruff was aggressive and wouldn’t explain why they were being detained.

A second deputy called by Ruff as backup ordered Whitney out of the truck at gunpoint, according to both versions of events.

Ruff jolted Creager with a Taser three times, which Ruff’s report said was necessary so he could be handcuffed. Creager said in a claim filed with the county that the pain was worse than he ever imagined, and that he broke several teeth clenching his jaw.

He was examined by paramedics and eventually charged with resisting arrest, driving under the influence and obstructing an officer.

But Ruff later told supervisors he failed to tell Creager he was under arrest before using the Taser, and the resisting-arrest charge was dropped. Blood tests also showed Creager was below the legal limit for alcohol consumption. He eventually pleaded guilty to obstructing an officer, receiving a $500 fine and a suspended sentence.

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