A judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit against the Town of Sahuarita filed by a man who said his constitutional rights were violated during an arrest at Walmart in August 2019.
U.S. District Judge John C. Hinderaker said Freedom Christopher Pfaendler’s suit against the town and five police officers failed to make a case on any of its assertions and granted the town’s motion to dismiss. But Hinderaker left open the door to have the complaint refiled, and Pfaendler’s attorney said via email Friday that they plan to do that.
“The case isn’t over, this is an easily corrected matter on a technical issue which is why the court’s order gives us this opportunity,” attorney Richard Wintory said. “We will take the appropriate steps and continue on our path to obtain justice for Mr. Pfaendler and to remedy this practice that threatens anyone who offends Wal-mart’s management with a false arrest.”
Pfaendler was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct when customers became alarmed by his behavior a few days after mass shootings at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, and outside a Dayton, Ohio, bar.
Police said a Walmart manager called 911 to report that a man carrying a camouflage backpack and wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet was refusing to remove the helmet despite being asked four times. The officer said Pfaendler, who was not armed, told officers he was listening to music and never heard the manager ask him to remove his helmet.
Pfaendler’s lawsuit claimed he was illegally searched, falsely arrested, maliciously prosecuted by being detained for 17 hours, and was defamed when the department public information officer talked with media after the incident.
Part of Pfaendler’s complaint focused on what he deemed hostile questioning by Officer John George. According to the complaint and video released by his attorney, George ordered Pfaendler to “reach down between your legs and pull your head out of your (expletive)!”
George was fired later that month for his actions in an unrelated case involving a traffic stop where a driver was Tasered. That driver received a $15,000 settlement from the town. George, who was still in a 12-month probationary period as an officer, later landed a job with DPS.