Three people who were once accused of injuring city police officers in a fight are now alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution and excessive force against the officers and the Police Department in a federal lawsuit.
The three allege that city officers attacked them in January 2014 after one of the three, identified as Joseph Toomer, questioned why an officer looking for someone who had fled continued shining a flashlight in his face.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney E. Robert Keach, quotes that officer as telling Toomer to “get your [expletive] black [expletive] over here because I’m going to [expletive] you up.”
The lawsuit says that Toomer retreated into his family’s apartment and several officers barged in after him after other family members tried to prevent them from entering.
The lawsuit claims officers punched and kicked all three, used a police dog on Toomer as he lay in a fetal position on the sidewalk and a taser three times on Toomer’s nephew Manuel Toomer, who suffered a broken nose.
The suit includes pictures identifying multiple dog bite marks on Joseph Toomer and Manuel Toomer’s bloodied face.
“There was absolutely no legal justification for the defendants to conduct a warrantless and forceful entry into the Toomer home,” the lawsuit reads. “The defendants also used unjustified and excessive force when arresting the Toomers.”
Keach filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Albany seeking unspecified punitive damages. Named as plaintiffs are Joseph Toomer, then 39 of Albany, his sister Dodie Toomer, then 43, and Dodie Toomer’s son Manuel Toomer, both of Schenectady. Dodie Toomer also suffered injuries, the suit reads.
City Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said Tuesday he is aware of a notice of claim filed in the case, but the city has yet to be served with the lawsuit. If the city receives the suit, he said, the city will review the allegations.
Falotico declined to comment further. Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett referred comment to Falotico.
Named as defendants in the case are the city of Schenectady and 15 separate city police officers.
All three of the Toomers were initially charged in the Jan. 23, 2014, incident at the family’s Schenectady Street residence, accused of injuring three officers in a fight, according to court paperwork at the time.
One of the officers, Sgt. Christopher Scaccia, suffered a possible broken nose, according to court paperwork filed then. Officer Michael Randle and Brandon Kietlinski suffered scrapes.
All three are among the 15 officers named as defendants in the suit and Scaccia is identified as the officer who first shined the flashlight on Joseph Toomer and allegedly threatened Toomer.
Prosecutors didn’t pursue the original felony assault charges against Joseph and Manuel Toomer.
But misdemeanor charges against all three went to trial in City Court in early 2015. After a defense subpoena of the city uncovered audio and video recordings that should have been disclosed to the defense, the charges against Dodie Toomer were ultimately dismissed and Joseph and Manuel Toomer were allowed to plead guilty to violation disorderly conduct, the lawsuit reads.
In the lawsuit, Keach describes the audio and video turned over as depicting Scaccia “making threats of false and malicious prosecution;” video of several offices who “appear to be joking about kicking” the Toomers; and an incident report that “clearly contradicted testimony” from seven officers about why officers had initially approached Toomer.
Keach said Tuesday that he also has audio from later in the incident, which he called disturbing. He doesn’t have audio of the initial encounter with Joseph Toomer, as he understands that Scaccia did not have a microphone.
The suit claims that as Scaccia tried to force his way into the residence he “began yelling racial slurs, profanities and threats at the Toomers.”
Other officers soon arrived. Joseph Toomer got a camera and began taking pictures of the officers. The suit alleges that the officers became enraged at the photo taking and began assaulting the three.
In all, the Toomers are claiming false arrest, malicious prosecution under federal and state law, excessive use of force, failure to protect from harm and failure to have proper policies and training.
The full list of named defendants in the suit: city of Schenectady, Scaccia, Zachary Weakley, Kevin Derkowski, Aaron Zampella, Kietlinski, Dean DeMartino, Randle, Ryan Kent, Timothy Higgins, Joseph Peters IV, Brian Pommer, Eric Reyell, Anthony Savignano, Christopher Semione and Christopher North.