The family of a Rotterdam teenager whose arm was broken by two Rotterdam police officers as they pulled him from a school bus last year is suing the town and the officers.
The parents of Jacob Gocheski, who was 17 at the time, filed the suit last week in U.S. District Court in Albany, seeking unspecified damages. They allege police violated the teen’s civil rights by using excessive force and the town failed to properly train the officers in how to handle someone with mental disabilities.
Gocheski was suffering from an “emotional episode” at the time of the Oct. 9, 2013, incident and was incapable of leaving his seat, the suit reads. The bus was from the Mohonasen Central School District, officials have said previously.
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 his arm.
Gocheski’s injuries “were the result of the Town’s negligence and deliberate indifference to the plight of the emotionally disturbed,” the suit reads.
The officers removing Gocheski from the bus were identified as Daniel P. Ryan and Ronald R. Armstrong. Both are named as defendants, along with the town.
The family contends the town failed to train its officers “on the proper method and manner in which to restrain and move an individual suffering from mental disability and in the midst of a mental incident, and on the proper use of force when restraining an individual,” according to the suit.
Representatives of the town and its police department declined comment on the suit Tuesday, citing policies not to comment on pending litigation. Police Chief Jim Hamilton defended his officers’ actions in comments last year, claiming a departmental review of the incident determined they followed protocol and procedures.
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 the incident occurred. At the time, he was refusing to get off the bus, which was stopped by his family’s home.
The officers are then seen grappling with Gocheski shortly before there is an audible snap and the boy begins to scream.
“Ahh [expletive],” Gocheski screams in the video. “Oh God, you broke my [expletive] arm.”
Gocheski was charged the next day with obstructing governmental administration, a misdemeanor. Gocheski 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. Gocheski’s attorney, Kevin Luibrand, confirmed Tuesday the charge was dismissed as expected. Luibrand, who is also handling the lawsuit for Gocheski, declined to otherwise comment on the suit.
In January, Gocheski’s family filed a notice of claim, the precursor to a lawsuit, and sought $1 million in damages. The suit, however, includes no specific dollar amount.
Luibrand contended in the notice of claim the charge was filed against Gocheski with the intent to cover up the injury to the teen and the use of excessive force.
The suit was filed by Gocheski’s parents, Phillip and Rosemarie Gocheski. Gocheski is identified only by his initials.
Gocheski suffered a fractured humerus, internal muscle damage and possible nerve damage as a result of the broken arm, according to the suit.
The notice of claim and suit carry similar wording in describing the incident. One officer held Gocheski down while the other “violently forced” his hand and arm behind his back at “an unnatural angle,” both read.
The family is suing for denial of Gocheski’s civil rights, conspiracy to deny his civil rights, excessive force, assault and battery, negligence and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.