A Philadelphia cab driver claims in a newly filed lawsuit that he was physically assaulted by a University of Pennsylvania police officer after being pulled over for alleged careless driving.
Saharo Sacko, a resident of Philadelphia, filed suit last week against the university, its board of trustees, its police department, and four unnamed officers.
The complaint says that Sacko was stopped by several officers on Feb. 12, 2012, while he was driving his cab with a passenger inside in the area of the 4200 block of Walnut Street in Philadelphia.
Sacko, who was told he was being pulled over because of his poor driving, claims that suddenly, and without probable cause, reasonable suspicion or provocation, he was verbally accosted and physically assaulted by one of the cops.
The complaint alleges that the defendant officers “aggressively pulled Plaintiff by his shoulder from his vehicle and violently threw him against the trunk of the vehicle during this assault [and] Plaintiff’s ankle struck the curb.”
After this, one of the officers allegedly struck Sacko on his back and shoulders, causing the plaintiff to sustain injuries.
At the end of the encounter, the plaintiff received a ticket for careless driving.
“The attack occurred while Plaintiff was in a non-threatening and defenseless physical position, unarmed and completely unable to pose any threat to others or defend himself,” the lawsuit reads.
The defendants are also accused of attempting to cover up the incident by requesting that the plaintiff’s passenger leave the scene.
Sacko did not interfere with any police activity that night and he committed no crime that would have justified his alleged treatment at the hands of the officers, the lawsuit states.
The plaintiff subsequently called 911 to report the alleged assault; he also filed a citizen complaint form with the university’s police department, records show.
The day after the altercation, Sacko went to Mercy Philadelphia Hospital’s emergency room where he was diagnosed with having a distal fibula avulsion fracture, according to the complaint.
The careless driving citation that was issued to Sacko was ultimately dismissed by a Philadelphia Traffic Court judge.
In addition to the leg fracture, the plaintiff claims he sustained injuries to his neck, back, shoulder, chest wall and head.
“Defendants’ actions, and their motivation for their actions, were conscience shocking, without conscious regard or due care for the Plaintiff or the foreseeable consequences of their actions, and with such wanton and reckless disregard of the consequences as to show Defendants’ deliberate indifference to the danger of harm and injury,” the complaint reads.
Sacko claims he suffered and continues to suffer deprivation of his rights, fear, horror, loss of liberty, grievous physical injuries and the loss of life’s enjoyment.
He also says he suffered mental anguish as well as great physical pain that required medical treatment, along with a loss of earning power and potential.
The constitutional violations suffered by the plaintiff, the suit says, were the result of the failure of the university and its police department to properly train its officers with regard to the proper method for handling “citizens’ use of modern technology to capture police activity while preserving those individuals’ constitutionally protected rights.”
While the suit doesn’t offer specifics in this regard, this allegation signals that the plaintiff may have been engaged in the act of video or audio recording police officer performing their jobs, something that is protected in Pennsylvania, and has been the subject of other litigation.
The defendants are accused of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations along with assault and battery, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, and excessive force.
Sacko seeks compensatory damages in excess of $150,000, attorney’s fees, litigation costs, interest and other legal relief.
He is being represented by Philadelphia attorney Anthony Lopresti of the firm Clearfield & Kofsky.
The federal case number is 2:14-cv-00831-MMB.