DRPA cops sued for cracking open skull of active duty Army member

By Jon Campisi | Jan 25, 2012

An active-duty member of the U.S. military is suing the Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and four of its police officers, alleging the patrolmen used excessive force when they split open the plaintiff’s head with their police batons during an incident in early 2010.

Philadelphia resident Armetha Simpson claims that she was seriously injured when the officers mistook her for an active participant in a fight among girls in downtown Philadelphia.

Simpson, who was meeting up with her niece Jan. 26, 2010 in Center City Philadelphia, was on her way back home with her relative when the two became involved in a fight with a group of youths at the bottom steps of the subway concourse, according to the federal complaint, which was filed Jan. 23 at the U.S. District Court for the Easter District of Pennsylvania by Philadelphia attorney Joyce Ullman.

Simpson, the lawsuit claims, initially attempted to break up the fight by separating some of the girls who were involved in the altercation.

While she was doing so, another altercation broke out, this one involving her niece, who was “pulled into that fight and knocked to the ground,” the complaint alleges.

It was at this point that Simpson attempted to retrieve her niece from the brawl, the suit claims. It was also at this point that Simpson felt a blow to the back of her head, a strike that she claims caused her to collapse to the ground.

“While lying on the floor, she was struck again multiple times with a hard object on her head, back and legs,” the lawsuit claims.

That hard object ended up being a police officer’s baton.

“The men who struck her, as described above, were the four Delaware River Port Authority Transit policemen, Defendants Matthew I. Romano, Shawn Waters, Richard Rudolfi and A. Lattorres, using their police batons to strike her,” the lawsuit states, naming each individual defendant listed in the complaint.

The lawsuit claims that Simpson had to be transported to the hospital, where she received seven staples to close the gash on her head.

The suit states that Simpson’s clothes were so blood-soaked, that hospital staff had to offer her another garment to wear upon her release.

Simpson was initially charged with aggravated assault, a second-degree felony, but the charges were later reduced to simple assault, resisting arrest, hindering apprehension and disorderly conduct, all misdemeanors, the suit states.

In late September 2010, Simpson was acquitted of the hindering apprehension and simple assault charges, and in August 2011, the remaining charges were withdrawn by the commonwealth, the suit states.

The lawsuit claims that Simpson suffered a scalp laceration, injury to her lower back causing restriction of movement, ear ringing, severe headaches, and pain and discomfort in her shoulders, hips and knees.

The complaint also alleges that Simpson now suffers from memory loss, that her head injury has affected her cognitive abilities and that she has had to be assigned lighter duties in the Army.

Simpson also has a permanent scar on her scalp, which shows since she wears her hair short.

The suit claims Simpson had never before been in trouble with the law prior to her legal problems related to the incident in question.

The lawsuit contains counts of unlawful arrest, false imprisonment, unlawful restraint, unlawful seizure, excessive force, malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, and constitutional violations.

For each of the counts listed, Simpson seeks judgment in excess of $150,000 in both compensatory and punitive damages.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-00352-GP.

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