In the early morning house of April 16, 2011, Matthew Shaun Murphy, was walking home from a birthday party with his fiancé, Marie K. Annulysse. While walking south on Duval Street in the City of Key West, Murphy and Annulysse encountered two people – Jason Moffet and Beverly Anderson – seated on the front steps of a store called “Flirt”. Both Moffet and Anderson were well-known by the Key West Police as local “flavors” – transients who frequently created disturbances due to their alcohol and drug use.
As Murphy and Annulysse walked by the Flirt store, Moffet and Anderson, intoxicated from a night of drinking, began shouting racial slurs at Annulysse (a black female) and Murphy (a white male). Murphy attempted to verbally confront Moffet but was pulled away and led by Annulysse to the opposite side of Duval Street. However, Moffet and Anderson persisted by repeatedly shouting racial slurs at them. Anderson then suddenly yelled “That’s how you guys make monkey babies!” at the couple. This last comment particularly provoked Murphy and Annulysse because they had a son together, born approximately six months earlier. In response, Murphy crossed the street and went back to verbally confront Moffet and Anderson. Murphy was unarmed, had nothing in his hands and was shirtless. Anderson then called 911 while continuing to shout racial slurs at the couple (plainly audible on the 911 call).
As the two men stood facing each other, Moffet claims he stuck his face out and essentially invited Murphy to punch him. Murphy obliged by punching Moffet in the face one time. According to Moffet, this punch was of little consequence who claimed “I’ve fallen out of bed harder.”
Key West Police Officer Mark Siracuse was on bike patrol on the northern part of Duval Street (referred to as “Lower Duval”) when he heard a radio call advising of an incident taking place in the vicinity of the 300 block on Duval. Siracuse immediately began pedaling towards the incident location. As Officer Siracuse arrived at the scene on his bicycle, Murphy and Moffet were facing each other. Siracuse claimed he witnessed Murphy punch Moffet one time but that no further punches were thrown. Indeed, According to Officer Siracuse, Murphy never raised his hand to throw a second punch and that his arms were at his sides. Siracuse admitted that Murphy posed no threat to him. Despite this, Siracuse claimed he feared that Murphy was about to punch Moffet a second time.
Without making any attempt to diffuse the situation or even determine the cause of the altercation, Siracuse fired his TASER 1-2 seconds after observing the one punch, discharging 50,000 volts of electricity through two darts striking Murphy from the rear according to several witnesses. The effect of the TASER was instantaneous – Murphy immediately fell to the ground striking his head on an adjacent cement wall and/or on the concrete sidewalk. According to numerous witnesses, Siracuse neither announced his presence nor issued a warning that he was about to deploy TASER thereby failing to provide Murphy (and, Moffet for that matter) the opportunity to stand down and submit to Siracuse’s further orders.
As a result of striking his head, Murphy suffered a skull fracture, subdural hematomas and, a traumatic brain injury which has rendered him a quadriplegic, unable to speak, and permanently connected to a breathing apparatus and a feeding tube. After extensive litigation, including numerous depositions of eyewitnesses, the case was settled for the maximum limit of the City of Key West’s insurance policy – $1 Million Dollars.
This case (along with a recently settled wrongful death case) represents the largest civil rights settlement involving police misconduct in Key West history.