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Patrick Springer, Published January 23 2010

Officer: Force used in arrest ‘reasonable’

David Cochran, a Fargo police officer accused in a civil lawsuit of using unnecessary force in arresting an intoxicated man whose leg was “shattered,” said he acted reasonably and asked a judge to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit, pending in U.S. District Court in Fargo, stems from an incident in September 2006, when Cochran responded to a call from someone who felt threatened by Lyle Henderson, a homeless man.

When Cochran arrived at the scene, in front of an apartment in south Fargo, he found Henderson to be “extremely intoxicated” and uncooperative, according to his answer to the lawsuit.

“Officer Cochran reasonably believed that under the circumstances where he was alone with an unruly, uncooperative, heavily intoxicated male that he had to take physical control of the situation,” Cochran and the city of Fargo argue in their answer.

In his lawsuit, Henderson contends that Cochran shattered his knee and leg with an unprovoked kick, using a “leg sweep” to knock him down.

But in Cochran’s answer, the officer maintains that the two tussled and fell to the ground while he was trying to handcuff Henderson.

Records indicate Cochran was cleared in an internal investigation of the incident by the Fargo Police Department.

“I believe the force used by Officer Cochran was reasonable and necessary to control Henderson’s level of resistance,” Lt. Joel Vettel wrote Capt. David Todd after reviewing a report of the incident.

Vettel also concluded that Cochran exhibited poor judgment in failing to wait for backup before proceeding with the difficult arrest.

After reviewing Vettel’s memorandum, Todd wrote to Police Chief Keith Ternes that he agreed with the assessment by Vettel and Sgt. Kevin Pallas.

But Todd did say Cochran had a pattern of placing himself in situations where he has to take action before backup arrives, a situation Cochran’s superiors “counseled” him to avoid.

“It is a concern we will watch for in the future,” Todd wrote Ternes, adding that he deemed Cochran’s level of force appropriate in arresting Henderson.

Cochran, 32, joined the police force in 2004.

Henderson, 45, has a long history of convictions related to alcohol, including eight arrests for drunken driving dating back 25 years.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522