The Connecticut Post by Tom Cleary - January 4, 2012
BRIDGEPORT, CT -- A 76-year-old city man has filed a federal lawsuit against nine Bridgeport police officers claiming his constitutional rights were violated when he was injured during a raid on a Washington Terrace residence in 2008. George Brown, who lives in the Washington Terrace house that was raided, was tackled to the ground by Officer Ivan J. Clayton while sitting in a lawn chair outside the house, according to the complaint filed in federal court in May. According to the police report, Brown attempted to block entry to the officers and "took a boxer's stance," against Clayton. After Brown was tossed from the chair, face-first onto concrete, the complaint says Clayton put his knee in the elderly man's back and handcuffed him. Brown suffered a right wrist contusion, head contusion, shock to his nervous system and a torn left rotator cuff in his shoulder that required surgery. "This is a wonderful case of Grandpa George, frail and elderly, sitting on a lawn chair when the Bridgeport Tactical Narcotics squad shows up, in full regalia -- for a raid on the home -- and all the drug-dealing kids and various assorted relatives," said Sally A. Roberts, a New Britain-based attorney who is representing Brown pro bono, in an email. "Grandpa George was probably trying to protect the homefront, but in his frail state cannot reasonably be said to pose a threat with his `boxer stance.' "
"I cannot wait to present this case to a jury -- there is a certain hilarious element to it," Roberts said. "I will ask Grandpa George to get off the stand, assisted by his cane, and assume the threatening `boxer stance' for the court and jury. I would not be surprised if some of the jury start laughing so hard they nearly fall out of their seats." Brown was charged with interfering with a police officer, but the charges were later dropped, according to Roberts. Three others were charged with various drug offenses as a result of the raid and more than four grams of cocaine were seized, according to court records. The suit is requesting compensatory findings, and money to pay for medical bills, including future bills that will occur as a result of lasting injuries from the incident, according to the complaint. In addition to Clayton, the lawsuit names officers Carl Bergquist, Edward Rivera, Ricardo Vargas, Walberto Cotto Jr., Miguel Perez, Jose Bahr, Gregory Iamartino and William Simpson. The complaint claims the eight officers "had reasonable opportunity to prevent (Clayton) from violating the plaintiff's rights." The officers are being represented by city attorney Betsy Edwards, who couldn't be reached for comment Thursday. Brown also filed a citizen's complaint with the police department's internal affairs office, but it was rejected by Lt. Rebecca Garcia because it wasn't submitted within 60 days of the incident. Roberts, who took Brown's case in late December, is also representing city resident Kelly Smith in her lawsuit against a civilian booking officer who is accused of violating her constitutional right to be free from unreasonable force during an arrest. Smith had been arrested after she was involved in a domestic dispute with her husband. Keila Farmer, the civilian officer, has been terminated by the city. Officers Michael Dos Santos, Omar Jimenez, Edwin Rivera and Michael Sigrist, all of whom were present during the incident, have also been named in that lawsuit. Surveillance footage of the incident was obtained and distributed to media outlets by Roberts. In a third federal lawsuit filed against the police department, William Feliciano, is seeking $3.5 million from the city. In that suit, which names Sgt. Ronald Mercado and police officers Joseph Lawlor, James Hanley Jr., Christina Arroyo, Jose Sepulveda, Elizabeth Santora and Christopher Martin, as defendants, Feliciano claims he was ordered onto the ground at gunpoint, handcuffed and then repeatedly kicked and punched. The suit claims Feliciano's jaw was broken in three places and he suffered broken teeth and concussion-like symptoms. Feliciano had been involved in a high-speed chase in 2010 that began on Fairfield Avenue and ended in the city's East Side. Reach Tom Cleary at 203-540-9827 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tomwcleary.