UPDATE: Springdale Police released a statement in response to the federal jury’s decision.
“On September 22, 2021 a jury found against Officer Cody Ross in a use of force case. While we respect the jury’s findings we support Officer Ross as he evaluates his options,” department spokesperson Lt. Jeff Taylor said in a statement.
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A federal jury ruled to award punitive damages to a man stemming from a 2016 arrest in which the jury found a Springdale officer used excessive force.
Officer Cody Ross, who now serves as a school resource officer in the Springdale Public School District, used excessive force in arresting Johnnie Rochell, Jr. in 2016, according to the official verdict form. Ross’ conduct “involved reckless or callous indifference to Mr. Rochell’s Fourth Amendment rights.” Ross’ insurance will pay Rochell $7,000.
According to Rochell’s claim, first filed in 2016, then-Detective Ross parked in front of Rochell’s house in an unmarked car on Feb. 19 of that year wearing plain clothes surveilling a house down the street. After not responding to Rochell’s attempts to speak to him, the Springdale man went inside his house and retrieved a rifle, slung it over his shoulder and walked outside. Ross then got out of his truck, pointed a semi-automatic handgun in Rochell’s face and screamed, “drop the [expletive] gun or I’m going to kill you.”
Rochell turned to get on the ground, he said in the complaint, and Ross continued to threaten him while lying on him. Rochell then reminded the officer that Arkansas is an open-carry state before accusing him of a racist double-standard and saying, “I was coming for his badge.” Ross asserted that Rochell pointed his rifle at him, something Rochell denied throughout his complaint, and that he’d charge the Springdale man with aggravated assault. In every official report following the complaint, Ross said the gun wasn’t pointed at him or used in a threatening way.
Ross apologized to Rochell once he was placed in the back of a police car, the complaint said, but he said he would still charge him with felony possession of a firearm. Rochell was ultimately arrested after police mixed him up with a white man with the same name wanted in other cases.
Six days later, Rochell tried to go to the police department to “press charges” against Ross, but he was refused. According to documents, Ross called Rochell the next day to apologize and “make it right,” telling Rochell he could come pick up his rifle. When he arrived, he was cited for disorderly conduct.
In the original complaint, Rochell asked for punitive damages of $200 million.
According to witnesses in the trial, Ross became emotional during the trial. Others said he acted professionally.