A Philadelphia man who claims he was arrested during a case of mistaken
identity has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the city and a handful of its police officers.
Daniel Odom-Woodlin filed suit at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Dec. 9 on behalf of himself and his three children.
Odom-Woodlin, 35, claims officers went to his house apparently in search of another man, and ended up detaining him and traumatizing the youngsters, who range in age from 2 to 11, during an early morning encounter on Aug. 28, 2012.
The plaintiff, who says he has never before been in trouble with the law, alleges that two city detectives and four officers descended upon his home at about 8:45 a.m. while he was asleep in an upstairs bedroom with his infant daughter.
The two young sons were on the first floor of the home at the time.
Odom-Woodlin says he was awakened by a loud banging noise, which he later determined was the defendants attempting to gain entry into his home.
Because the officers didn’t initially identify themselves, the plaintiff says he phoned his sister, a Philadelphia police officer, to ask what he should do.
The sister told the plaintiff to call 911 and ask dispatch if officers had been sent to his home, the complaint states.
Odom-Woodlin was at first told no officers had been dispatched to the property, and when he called back, he was again told the same thing.
The plaintiff was further instructed to contact the warrant unit and simultaneously ask that a marked patrol car be sent to the residence, the suit states.
Before Odom-Woodlin had the chance to place that follow-up call, however, the defendants had broken open the side door to the residence and entered the home, according to the complaint.
One of the officers then pulled a gun on the plaintiff and placed the man in handcuffs.
Odom-Woodlin began to cry when he realized his children had witnessed the event, although he was never allowed to console the youngsters, he claims in his civil action.
The defendants soon explained that they had an arrest warrant for a man named Walter Williams, who purportedly lived at the plaintiff’s address.
The officers went on to search the entire property, but Williams, who the plaintiff said he didn’t know, was never located.
The two detectives and the four officers ultimately released Odom-Woodlin to his family and left the property, the suit states.
The plaintiff was told to contact the City Solicitor’s Office to seek compensation for the damage that was done to the property.
The lawsuit alleges that before seeking the arrest warrant for Walter Williams, the detectives made no inquiry and conducted no investigation to determine that man’s whereabouts or otherwise obtain current information as to his residence.
“There was no legal cause to justify the entry of plaintiffs’ home,” the complaint reads. “The defendants’ actions in handcuffing Mr. Odom-Woodlin and forcing Mr. Odom-Woodlin’s children to remain in place while they searched the home constituted a stop and/or arrest of plaintiffs.”
The suit also claims that the officers’ pointing of a Taser gun at the plaintiff and his young daughter constituted a use of force against the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, citing various past cases, claims that the City of Philadelphia was aware that the practices of city cops in the execution of arrest warrants were likely to result in constitutional violations.
“Based on the litigation of several civil rights matters … defendant City of Philadelphia was aware that law enforcement officers in Philadelphia routinely fail to confirm that home addresses reported on arrest warrants are accurate at the time they seek to execute arrest warrants,” the complaint states. “Despite this knowledge, defendant City of Philadelphia has, with deliberate indifference, failed to institute policies, procedures, training, supervision or disciplinary measures that would prevent the unlawful entry of civilians’ homes during the execution of arrest warrants.”
The plaintiff says he suffered damages including physical and psychological harm, pain and suffering, and financial losses.
The defendants are only identified by last name. They are as follows: Detectives Varela and Ortiz, and Officers Barbie, Flynn, Iarosis, Redanauer, and Simpson.
Odom-Woodlin seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.
The suit was filed by Philadelphia attorney Jonathan H. Feinberg, of the firm Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-07163-TJS.