Section: CAPITAL REGION Page: B1 Date: Saturday, March 4, 2000
CITY, COPS FACE $6M CIVIL SUIT FOR ARRESTSMELISSA GRACE Staff writer
Three men arrested just hours after the shooting of two police officers filed a federal lawsuit Friday, charging that police used racial slurs and then beat and falsely arrested them.The $6 million civil rights claim charges that officers subdued and handcuffed Sean Foskey, Almasi Forrest and Warren Washington, then ``kicked them and struck them repeatedly with fists and a baton'' at Fat Dee's Grocery Store on Clinton Avenue. The lawsuit -- which names the city of Albany, its police department and nine unidentified officers as defendants -- states the men violated no laws and that police had no probable cause to arrest them. It also states that the officers shot liquid pepper spray at the ``eyes, face and genitals'' of the men. The arrests were made at about 12:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the grocery store on the corner of Clinton Avenue and North Swan Street.
The arrests came several hours after a heavily armed special police unit swept through Arbor Hill searching for Tracy Grady, a man charged with shooting Officers Stanley Nadoraski and Thomas Shea in the early morning hours of Nov. 13. The officers were trying to arrest Grady when the shooting happened. A fourth plaintiff in the lawsuit, Darryl Lahon, 34, the owner of Fat Dee's, alleges that the police entered the store, unlawfully searched his business, turned off video surveillance equipment, damaged his property and subsequently forced him to lock up the store. The arrests at Fat Dee's were criticized by community leaders, who said the department's handling of the search for the gunman spilled over and that police, frustrated by their inability to capture Grady and distraught because colleagues were shot, overreacted. Police said the search for Grady had subsided in Albany and that the two events were not related.
Police Chief John C. Nielsen, who has announced he would discipline the officers involved in the alleged incident, declined to comment on the pending litigation. Nielsen said in December that he has taken steps to fire one officer involved in the incident. Several of the others face departmental charges and their cases are pending, according to Detective Thomas McGraw, president of the Albany Police Officers Union. The Albany attorney representing the four men in the lawsuit, Randall E. Kehoe, had previously filed three notices of claim with the city on behalf of Washington, 29, Forrest, 24, and Foskey -- the 24-year-old son of Common Council Member Shirley Foskey. Kehoe, who could not be reached for comment, has said in the past that the incidents were captured on video before the camera was turned off. ``What I see on this tape is our guys not committing crimes and then clearly being brutalized,'' Kehoe has said.
The three men were arrested in front of Fat Dee's market and charged with disorderly conduct. Foskey and Forrest were also charged with resisting arrest. In the lawsuit, the men charge that they were detained for hours and interrogated without cause and that the officers and the department acted in ``conspiracy'' to violate their constitutional rights. The men allege they suffered skin burns, back injuries, cuts and psychological trauma, and that they required medical attention, but that it was denied them while they were in custody. The lawsuit alleges that the men were falsely charged ``to make it appear that there had been justification for the arrests'' and to protect the department from civil and criminal liabilities. The legal action also charges that the city and department are indifferent to the excessive use of force by officers, that they are not properly trained and that evidence of criminal conduct by police are not sent to the district attorney. Thus the department has failed to ``assure the function of a bona fide and meaningful departmental system for dealing with complaints of police misconduct.'' The lawsuit comes as minority community leaders are waging a battle to strengthen a civilian complaint review board, one with subpoena powers and the ability to conduct its own investigations.