CASPER — A local woman is suing the city and a pair of Casper police officers alleging they violated her civil rights during her takedown and arrest while responding to a January 2020 noise complaint.
Adrianah Rodriguez, a Black/Latina woman, filed a lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming claiming Officers Michael Quirin and Ryan Lowry unlawfully arrested her Jan. 5, 2020, and while doing so used excessive force, violated her constitutional free speech right and retaliated against her for exercising her free speech.
The city of Casper also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed on Rodriguez’s behalf by attorneys for the Denver law firm of Kilmer Lane. That claim is the city did not property train the officers and allowed their alleged misconduct.
Quirin allegedly put his knee on Rodgriguez’s neck, prompting her to say, “I can’t breathe,” the lawsuit says. That happened after she told the officer he was “mistreating people” and that “I know my rights” when police responded to a small party at a Casper apartment.
Rodriguez was arrested on suspicion with interfering with a police officer, jailed and released the next day with charges dropped, the lawsuit says.
Lyrics to the song “Cry No More” by folk and blues musician Rhianna Giddens introduce the lawsuit: “And they stole our solace (I can’t cry no more); And they stole our peace (I can’t cry no more); With countless acts of malice (I can’t cry not more); And hatred without cease (I can’t cry no more).”
Civil Rights Violations
According to the lawsuit, Rodriguez was attending a small party at a friend’s apartment and had not been there long when Quirin and Lowry arrived in response to a “noise complaint.”
“While walking up the steps to the apartment, Officer Quirin remarked to Officer Lowry, ‘It’s not that loud,’” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit states the officers “barged” into the apartment after a party attendee opened the door – without a search warrant or “legal basis to enter the apartment.” It says, Officer Quirin began physically moving people to one side of the apartment, went into a bedroom where a young man was sleeping and ordered him out of bed.
Only Black/Latina Woman At Party
Her lawsuit says that Rodriguez was the only “Black/Latina” woman at the party and the first to volunteer her identification.
“While she was in the process of offering her ID card, Ms. Rodriguez — a 120-pound, 5’3” woman — calmly and politely stated that the officer was ‘mistreating people’ and that ‘I know my rights,’” the lawsuit relates.
The suit says that Quirin then “threatened” her by saying: “Ma’am would like to be quiet or be in custody.”
“Ms. Rodriguez momentarily put her hand with her ID behind her back as she replied: ‘No, I would not like to be in custody,’” the lawsuit says. Then Quirin allegedly took Rodriguez down to the floor and “lied in his report” that Rodriguez “refused” to comply with a directive to move away from others.
The lawsuit states Quirin forced her arms behind her back, put his entire body weight on Rodriguez’s back and “wedged his knee into the back of her neck.”
‘I Can’t Breathe’
Rodriguez went into a “panic attack” and “repeatedly stated, ‘I can’t breathe’ as she loudly hyperventilated,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit claims that neither Lowry or Quirin attempted to de-escalate the situation and Lowry allegedly addressed Quirin’s knee placement on the plaintiff’s neck by stating, “‘Quirin, Quirin,’ a few times, but did nothing more to to intervene to stop him from harming Ms. Rodriguez.”
Meanwhile, another party attendee whose father is a lawyer called his father during the incident and was put in handcuffs as well, the lawsuit alleges.
The suit states Quirin lacked probable cause to make an arrest and used excessive force “if there had been a basis to effect a lawful arrest.”
When a police department supervisor arrived at the scene and they took Rodriguez outside, the supervisor allegedly asked Quirin, “What are we going to do with her,” the lawsuit says, alleging the officer then lied by saying Rodriguez fought with him. After speaking with the supervisor, Quirin charged her for “interference with a police officer,” the lawsuit says.
Night In Jail
Rodriguez was taken to jail to spend the night and most of the following day.
“The baseless charge against Ms. Rodriguez was dismissed the very next day,” the lawsuit states.
In addition to the allegations against the two officers, the lawsuit blames the city of Casper for “training, customs, polices and practices” of the Casper Police Department. It cites previous incidents involving department officers that have led to judicial and jury decisions and cash settlements for other civil rights violations caused by department officers.
Casper City Attorney Eric Nelson said he became aware of lawsuit Monday and has not had a chance to review it. He said the city will use outside counsel to respond to the allegations.
Nelson also told Cowboy State Daily that he's aware of a Casper Star-Tribune story in 2021 that referenced a statement from the Casper Police Department admitting Quirin did not follow department guidelines.
The plaintiff and her attorneys could not be reached for additional comment.
Rodriguez’s attorneys allege that officers and the city violated Rodriguez’s Fourth Amendment right against excessive force, and that Quirin’s use of force was “disproportionate to the need under the circumstances.” The lawsuit also states her Fourth Amendment rights were violated because of an “unlawful arrest” because Rodriguez did not violate any law.
The suit also states that the city of Casper and Quirin violated Rodriguez’s First Amendment right to free speech; and that Quirin used force to “punish” Rodriguez for “exercising her First Amendment rights by silencing her and deterring her from speaking in the future.”
The lawsuit seeks economic damages, compensatory damages for “physical and emotional pain,” punitive damages to all claims, and attorney fees and costs.
Casper Police Department spokeswoman Amber Freestone confirmed both police officers Quirin and Lowry continue to work for the department.
The case is ongoing.
Dale Killingbeck can be reached at email@example.com.