Victim of alleged Philly PD assault files federal civil rights complaint against officers

Jon Campisi Sep. 12, 2011, 7:35am

A former Philadelphia resident who claims police roughed him up during an arrest in the spring of 2010, a detainment that he calls unwarranted, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officers in question.

The City of Philadelphia is also named as a defendant in the case.

Philadelphia attorneys Patrick G. Geckle and Michael Cortese filed the civil action Sept. 9 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Nathaniel Hunter, who currently resides in Upper Darby, Pa, just outside the city limits.

According to the complaint, Hunter was intercepted by the defendants, Philadelphia Police Officers Daniel Mason and Christopher Lantz, while he was walking to his girlfriend’s house after work on April 5, 2010.

Hunter claims that while he was stopped talking to some local youths he knew in front of a home on the 300 block of North Robinson Street, he was approached by the officers, one of whom, Mason, got out of his patrol car and ordered Hunter to remain still while holding him at gunpoint, the lawsuit states.

The officers claim Hunter matched the description of a suspect that had just come over police radio.

During the ensuing encounter, the officers gradually became more aggressive after Hunter inquired numerous times why he was being stopped, questioned, and frisked, the suit states.

At one point, Mason got in a “few body shots” on Hunter, put him in an “aggressive arm hold,” and put him into handcuffs.

The officers discovered a small caliber handgun on Hunter, the suit states, after which Lantz “violently, maliciously, and with reckless indifference struck the Plaintiff at least two times in his face with the gun,” the complaint states. Lantz also allegedly called Hunter a derogatory name each time he struck the plaintiff.

After the assault, the suit claims, Mason “body slammed the handcuffed and subdued Plaintiff to the ground face first.”

The assault continued on the way to the squad car, the lawsuit claims, with Hunter eventually having his body slammed against the car and his face smashed on the rear window.

Hunter was soon taken to the 19th Police District for booking, and then transported over to the 18th District, during which another officer noticed Hunter’s injuries and suggested he be taken to a hospital for evaluation, the lawsuit states.

After being made to sit in the original officers’ patrol car for another hour, Hunter was eventually taken to the emergency room of Mercy Hospital where he was treated for his injuries.

“At no time while the above transpired did Plaintiff, Nathaniel Hunter, act in anyway which could be considered aggressive or threatening toward the Defendant police officers or to any other individuals,” the lawsuit states.

The officers charged Hunter with possession of a firearm; firearms not to be carried without a license; carrying firearms in public, resisting arrest and possession of an instrument of a crime.

“All of the above mentioned charges were filed without probable cause and done maliciously, willfully, wantonly and recklessly in that Defendant Officers Lantz and Mason knew them to be false,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states that the criminal charges against Hunter were eventually dismissed.

The lawsuit does not state, however, whether or not Hunter possessed a valid carry license for his firearm at the time of his arrest.

The lawsuit alleges that the officers in question used unreasonable and excessive force and otherwise improperly exercised their police powers. It also accuses the city of failing to take disciplinary actions against its police officers.

Hunter seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other court related costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05644-BMS.

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