A lawsuit stemming from allegations two Rotterdam police officers broke a teenager’s arm while removing him from a school bus in 2013 has resulted in a $360,000 settlement, according to the attorney for the boy’s family.
The parents of Jacob Gocheski, who was 17 at the time, filed the suit last year in U.S. District Court in Albany, claiming police violated the teen’s civil rights and the town Police Department failed to properly train its officers on how to handle someone with mental disabilities.
The incident gained wide attention after bus surveillance video was released showing the incident.
Kevin Luibrand, attorney for the Gocheski family, issued a statement attributed to the boy’s parents, Phillip and Rosemarie Gocheski. They said they learned from the suit that the Rotterdam Police Department had no policies, plan or training on how to approach the emotionally disabled.
“With or without training, we feel that no police officer should feel the need to break someone’s arm in such a manner as was done to our son in order to remove him from a school bus,” the statement reads.
Gocheski was suffering an emotional episode at the time of the Oct. 9, 2013, incident and was incapable of leaving his seat, the suit reads. The bus belonged to the Mohonasen Central School District.
Police were called after Gocheski refused to get off the bus, which was stopped outside his family’s home. After speaking with Gocheski, the officers physically removed him from the seat, with one officer holding the teen down over the seat and the other pulling his arm behind his back. The result was a displaced fracture of that arm.
Gocheski’s injuries “were the result of the town’s negligence and deliberate indifference to the plight of the emotionally disturbed,” the suit read.
The attorney listed for the town could not be reached for comment Friday. Town Supervisor Harry Buffardi said he was aware a settlement had been reached, but not aware of the dollar figure.
He said the Town Board voted last fall to allow the insurance company to enter a settlement. Any settlement is being paid by the insurance company, he said, with the town responsible for a $5,000 deductible.
Buffardi referred questions on police policies or any changes since the incident to the Police Department. Deputy Police Chief William Manikas said Friday he was unaware of the settlement and couldn’t comment until he could speak to the town’s attorneys.
Police Chief Jim Hamilton defended his officers’ actions last year, claiming a departmental review of the incident determined they followed protocol and procedures.
The officers removing Gocheski from the bus were identified as Daniel P. Ryan and Ronald R. Armstrong. Both were named as defendants, along with the town.
Audio and video of much of the incident was caught on a school bus security camera. Gocheski had been speaking with officers for about 15 minutes before police removed him from the bus. The officers were then seen grappling with Gocheski shortly before an audible snap is heard and the boy begins to scream.
“Ahh [expletive],” Gocheski screams in the video. “Oh God, you broke my [expletive] arm.”
Gocheski suffered a fractured humerus, internal muscle damage and possible nerve damage, according to the suit.
Gocheski was charged the next day with obstructing governmental administration, a misdemeanor, but was later given an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, a resolution that required no admissions from him and dismissed the charge in six months if he stayed out of trouble.
Luibrand confirmed the charge was dismissed and contended in an earlier filing that the charge was filed to cover up the injury to the teen and the use of excessive force.