Phila. man sues city and police officer for alleged rough handling during detainment

Jon Campisi Jan. 30, 2012, 8:45am

A Philadelphia man who claims he sustained wrist and knee injuries at the hands of overly aggressive city police officers has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the cops in federal court.

In his complaint, which was filed Jan. 25 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by attorney James N. Gross, James Huff claims two police offices who responded to his call for help last spring actually ended up roughing him up when they discovered he was videotaping an interaction with neighbors.

When the defendant officers, named as John Lang and Christine Rocks of the 3rd Police District, arrived on scene on April 25, they observed a verbal dispute between Huff and unnamed individuals who live nearby, the lawsuit states.

Huff had been using a video camera to record the conduct of his neighbors.

After approaching Huff and his mother, the suit states, the officers addressed the other individuals, telling them to retreat to their nearby property.

It was at this point that Huff claims he turned off the recording device. However, Rocks claimed that Huff got her likeness on camera, and asked him to give her the device, according to the complaint.

“At that moment police officer Lang shouted at the plaintiff’s mother ‘I told you 3 times to [step] back, don’t make me tell you that again,’” the lawsuit states. “At no time did Margaret Huff present herself as a threat or hindrance to either of the officers or any other individual.”

Huff took issue with the way the officers addressed his mother, the complaint alleges, and he subsequently asked Lang to refrain speaking to his mother that way because “she did nothing wrong.”

Lang then forcibly removed Huff from his front steps, placed him in a chokehold and twisted Huff’s arms behind his back, the lawsuit alleges. Huff was then thrown to the ground and his arms were “yanked back,” after which he was handcuffed and placed into the back of a police vehicle, the suit states.

Huff complained of shortness of breath and asked that the officers open the rear windows of the police car, but the defendants ignored his protestations, the lawsuit claims.

Only after Huff began kicking the car door from the inside did the officers remove Huff from the vehicle temporarily so he could catch his breath.

As a result of his altercation, Huff sustained injuries to his wrists, knee, shoulder and spine, the suit claims.

“At no time during the events described herein was plaintiff Huff intoxicated, disorderly or a threat to the safety of himself or others,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint alleges that Huff had his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights violated, that he experienced a loss of personal liberty and that he suffered physical pain and emotional trauma.

The lawsuit also contains assault and battery claims against the individual officers.

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

Huff seeks unspecified monetary damages and other court relief.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-00378-JHS.

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