Lawyer wants city of Atlanta to settle Red Dog strip-search lawsuit

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A federal appeals court has ruled that a man’s lawsuit against the city of Atlanta can go to trial.

Attorney Mark Bullman said the Atlanta Police Departments now-disbanded Red Dog Unit strip searched Rickey Sampson in 2010.

“They just walked up, grabbed a hold of this guy, a bunch of police officers, and pulled his pants down right in front of the mall – and found absolutely nothing,” Bullman said.

Sampson told Channel 2 Action News earlier this year that he was walking to his girlfriend’s car after getting his hair cut at West End Mall in southwest Atlanta when officers publicly strip searched him looking for drugs.

“When I got in the car with them, I felt like I got molested. That’s how it made me feel,” Sampson said.

Sampson said officers let him go upon learning he was a city employee.

The case has been on hold for months. The city of Atlanta appealed a trial court’s ruling that the case could go forward, but on Wednesday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals strongly denied the city’s request, saying Sampson had, “Presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to his claims of false imprisonment and abuse in being arrested.”

“Now we’re back to where we started with all this time and all this money being spent for no reason whatsoever,” Bullman said.

Bullman said Sampson wants to put the experience behind him, and he’s frustrated by the city’s handling of the case, especially since it’s already paid out large settlements in several similar Red Dog cases.

“Many of which are with the exact same officers doing the exact same thing in the exact same part of town and they go, ‘Gosh, we just don’t know what you’re talking about,’” Bullman said.

City of Atlanta  spokesman Carlos Campos told Channel 2’s Amy Napier Viteri that “The city is carefully reviewing the decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to determine how best to proceed.”

Bullman said the city is now on the hook for the costs of the appeal and said they can’t reach an agreement with the city, they’re prepared to go to trial.

The city formed Red Dog -- Run Every Drug Dealer Out of Georgia -- in 1987 during a spike in homicides blamed on the crack cocaine trade.

In 2009, 25 Red Dog and vice officers raided a gay bar in midtown, resulting in a lawsuit that cost tac payers more than $1 million. The city disbanded the unit in 2011.