M. M. v. City of Key West
In the early morning hours of April 16, 2011, M. M., was walking home from a birthday party with his fiancé, M. A. While walking south on Duval Street in the City of Key West, M. M. and M. A. encountered two people – Jason Moffet and Beverly Anderson – seated on the front steps of a store called “Flirt”. Both Moffet and Anderson were well-known by the Key West Police as local “flavors” – transients who frequently created disturbances due to their alcohol and drug use.
As M. M. and M. A. walked by the Flirt store, Moffet and Anderson, intoxicated from a night of drinking, began shouting racial slurs at A. M. (a black female) and M. M. (a white male). M. M. attempted to verbally confront Moffet but was pulled away and led by A. M. to the opposite side of Duval Street. However, Moffet and Anderson persisted by repeatedly shouting racial slurs at them. Anderson then suddenly yelled “That’s how you guys make monkey babies!” at the couple. This last comment particularly provoked M. M. and A. M. because they had a son together, born approximately six months earlier. In response, M. M. crossed the street and went back to verbally confront Moffet and Anderson. M. M. was unarmed, had nothing in his hands and was shirtless. Anderson then called 911 while continuing to shout racial slurs at the couple (plainly audible on the 911 call). As the two men stood facing each other, Moffet claimed he stuck his face out and essentially invited M. M. to punch him. Murphy obliged by punching Moffet in the face one time. According to Moffet, this punch was of little consequence – “I’ve fallen out of bed harder.”
Key West Police Officer Mark Siracuse was on bike patrol on the northern part of Duval Street (referred to as “Lower Duval”) when he heard a radio call advising of an incident taking place in the vicinity of the 300 block on Duval. Siracuse immediately began pedaling towards the incident location. As Officer Siracuse arrived at the scene on his bicycle, M. M. and Moffet were facing each other. Siracuse claimed he witnessed M. M. punch Moffet one time but that no further punches were thrown. Indeed, according to Officer Siracuse, M. M. never raised his hand to throw a second punch and that his arms were at his sides. Siracuse admitted that M. M. posed no threat to him. Despite this, Siracuse claimed he feared that M. M. was about to punch Moffet a second time.
Without making any attempt to diffuse the situation or even determine the cause of the altercation, Siracuse fired his TASER 1-2 seconds after observing the one punch, discharging 50,000 volts of electricity through two darts striking M. M. from the rear according to several witnesses. The effect of the TASER was instantaneous – M. M. immediately fell to the ground striking his head on an adjacent cement wall and/or on the concrete sidewalk. According to numerous witnesses, Siracuse neither announced his presence nor issued a warning that he was about to deploy his TASER thereby failing to provide M. M. (and, Moffet for that matter) the opportunity to stand down and submit to Siracuse’s further orders.
As a result of striking his head, M. M. suffered a skull fracture and a traumatic brain injury, which rendered him a quadriplegic, unable to speak, and permanently connected to a breathing apparatus and a feeding tube. After extensive litigation, including numerous depositions of eyewitnesses, the case was settled for the maximum limit of the City of Key West’s insurance policy.
This case (along with a recently settled wrongful death case) represents the largest civil rights settlement involving police misconduct in Key West history.