LAKE NORDEN, S.D. (KELO) — After a series of public complaints of abuse of power, a small-town South Dakota cop had his law enforcement certification revoked in 2018. But the story doesn’t end there. Now, one of the victims, whose case helped the state Law Enforcement Officers Standards Commission come to the decision to remove Jimmy Murphy as the police chief of Lake Norden, has filed a lawsuit in civil court.
In our KELOLAND News Investigation, “Ticket to Trouble,” for the first time we show you the video evidence of when Murphy tased a driver during a traffic stop and why that driver says Lake Norden officials must also be held accountable for the former chief’s actions.
Lake Norden, population 502, doesn’t see much crime.
Nikolas Weeks lives at Lake Poinsett and routinely goes into town to pick up his mail. It was on a trip to the Post office in February of 2016 that Lake Norden’s new Chief of Police, Jimmy Murphy pulled Weeks over.
“He said I blew through the stop sign and didn’t stop at the stop sign,” Weeks said.
Weeks claims he did stop.
“He was trying to get me to get out of the vehicle and roll my windows down. I told him I could hear him just fine. I didn’t know who he was. He didn’t identify himself. I didn’t see a badge,” Weeks said.
Now the one thing you need to know about Weeks is that he is a gun guy and carries them at all times. He’s never been in trouble with the law. When Jimmy Murphy asked him if he had weapons in his car, he said he did.
“He said, ‘I thought I asked you if you have anything you’re not supposed to have and isn’t a loaded gun something you’re not supposed to have?’ And I was like, ‘no, I’m a concealed gun permit carrier. A loaded gun is something I am supposed to have,'” Weeks said.
Weeks eventually got out of the car.
Kennecke: Were you afraid?
Weeks: I was a little bit because I was concerned I may have to defend myself. I didn’t think this guy was a legitimate police officer, the way he was acting. I told him that and that I was going to make a complaint to the sheriff’s office and he got really upset at that. He said, the sheriff can’t save you from me. This is how I run my traffic stops.
Murphy ticketed Weeks for running a stop sign and Weeks complained to the city council. He also appealed the ticket all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court. In his defense, Weeks requested Murphy’s dashcam video to try to prove he didn’t run the stop sign. He never got it.
“They agreed to turn over evidence, which they did not,” Weeks said.
According to the transcript of the hearing deciding on Murphy’s certification, Murphy admitted that there was no video evidence of the traffic stop.
Lake Norden City Attorney Todd Boyd also testified during the hearing that he never asked Murphy to download the dashcam video, saying it wouldn’t have captured anything anyway, even though he never saw it.
The Supreme Court ordered a retrial and the case was eventually dismissed when the prosecution took too long to respond. Fast forward to November of 2017 and Murphy pulls Weeks over once again.
This time, Weeks was armed with dashcams in the front and back of his vehicle. Murphy told him he’d made an illegal u-turn.
Weeks in dashcam video: “It is not illegal because it’s not posted. You aren’t going to harass me. You aren’t going to bother me again.”
Weeks: They put signs up (no u-turn) six months afterward and this was after Jimmy Murphy was selectively enforcing this no u-turn thing with people who either had problems with him or the city.
Kennecke: Doesn’t everybody in a small town make u-turns?
Murphy also told Weeks he had a headlight out, but Weeks didn’t believe him and called the Hamlin County Sheriff’s office for help. He says he had his phone in one hand and his voice recorder in another.
Weeks in a phone call to Hamling County Sheriff’s Office: I’d like to report an incident here. I just got pulled over by Jimmy Murphy in Lake Norden. And he’s harassing me.
The exchange escalated when Weeks refused to sign a ticket for having a headlight out.
Murphy to Weeks: If you don’t sign it, I’m going to arrest you.
In his response to Week’s lawsuit, Jimmy Murphy says in court documents that Weeks was “uncooperative” and that he “placed Murphy in fear for his safety.”
Weeks refused Murphy’s orders to get out of his car. The following in a transcript from Weeks’ dashcam video:
Weeks: Let me go, let me go.
Murphy: Step out of the vehicle.
Weeks: Do not touch me.
Murphy: Step out of the vehicle.
That’s when Murphy fired his taser and you can hear him screaming.
Nikolas Weeks’ dashcam video of him being tased by Jimmy Murphy
Week’s mother, June, was on the phone listening to the whole thing.
“Just thinking about it now, it was heart-wrenching. And not being able to do anything and not being able to be there. We didn’t know it was taser. When he said, ‘he shot me,’ we thought it was a gun,” June Weeks said.
In his written response to Weeks’ lawsuit, Murphy says he was using “reasonable force by use of a taser.”
“This is where I was assaulted. He tased me while I was inside my vehicle twice. Then he threw me, ripped me out of the vehicle, and threw me on the ground here into oncoming traffic, where I was almost run over by a pickup truck. He then jumped on me and was hitting me with the taser and punching me in the kidney,” Weeks said.
Weeks was treated in the ambulance for his injuries.
“He shot me twice. One barb stuck directly in my heart. The other barb didn’t stick all the way and it was flopping around and it burnt holes in my skin, in a circular pattern, all the way up to my neck,” Weeks said.
While Weeks did not testify at the hearing, Murphy’s interactions with Weeks helped lead to his decertification, but that wasn’t the only thing. Two other traffic stops were also used as evidence, where Murphy was accused of lying about video evidence or wrongfully issuing a ticket. Another complaint involved Murphy acting outside his jurisdiction and confronting and detaining a 14-year-old boy who was lawfully in possession of a compound bow. Murphy denied all of the allegations.
Kennecke: Do you believe that Jimmy Murphy was lying during that hearing?
Jackley: Certainly I had questions of his credibility. One of the things as a juror is you have to address credibility and I certainly believed the folks that came in from the community and talked about the abusive behavior. They were credible to me.
Then-Attorney General, Marty Jackley sat on the panel which unanimously voted to decertify Murphy.
“We can’t have a situation where law enforcement is making misrepresentations on evidence that affects the safety of men and women who put the uniform on. I felt there was sufficient evidence introduced about those representations enough for me to vote to take away that certification.”
Murphy had seized Weeks’ guns and he went back to the police station to get them. Weeks recorded the exchange. Listen here:
“After further consideration, and I contacted the state’s attorney last night, and I further contacted the sheriff, I am seizing your property as evidence as of now. I have every right to do so,” Murphy said in Weeks’ recording.
Only Hamlin County State’s Attorney John Delzer had actually told Murphy he had no right to keep the guns.
Delzer went on to tell the panel after that that he stopped prosecuting any cases from Jimmy Murphy.
But not everyone agreed with removing Murphy from the job. Both Lake Norden’s Mayor Jason Aho and City Attorney wanted to keep him.
That’s one of the reasons Weeks is now suing the City and its attorney in civil court.
“People were bringing complaints to him directly and he was ignoring it. The city of Lake Norden was throwing our complaints in the garbage,” Weeks said.
“I think lessons learned is you need to listen to the community. Obviously, concerns were being raised about being abusive to the public. We can’t have that in law enforcement,” Jackley said.
“I’m not the only one that this happened to. A lot of those people, their cases may not have been severe, but their rights were violated when they were pulled over for things they didn’t do,” Weeks said.
The City of Lake Norden hired Murphy despite the fact that he had pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after bringing a gun into his daughter’s Sioux City school resulting in a lockdown. After serving six months’ probation that charge was dismissed.
In court documents, the City of Lake Norden and Jimmy Murphy both deny all of Weeks’ allegations. Lake Norden also says it has government immunity and did not violate Weeks’ rights. The City and Murphy have called for Weeks’ case to be dismissed and that he pays their legal costs.
All the defendants in this civil case have denied on-camera interviews.