TRENTON, NJ — Two Asbury Park residents maintain that Belmar police violated their civil rights when they were arrested after leaving D’Jais Bar & Grill in September 2018.
Mackenzie Pachtinger, 39, and Quwan Jones, 38, claim in a lawsuit filed on February 19 in U.S. District Court that they were subjected to “excessive and unreasonable use of force” and “unlawful and malicious physical abuse” during the September 4 incident.
Pachtinger and Jones are suing Belmar, as well as then-Detective Michael Yee, Police Officer Erik Lieb, 10 other unnamed officers and former Police Chief Andrew Huisman. Borough officials declined to comment because the matter involves pending litigation.
In the suit, Pachtinger and Jones said they were walking toward their car at about 1 a.m. after leaving D’Jais when they heard Yee and Lieb, who were posted outside the night club, shout in their direction, “Shut the f--- up. This is a quiet neighborhood.” The night club is located on the corner of Ocean and 18th Avenues.
Unsure as to whom the officers were shouting at, they continued walking to their car, situated several blocks away, the lawsuit said. Although not stated in the court papers, 18th Avenue was listed in the police report as the location of their arrests.
At that point, that lawsuit continues that Yee, Lieb and several other officers ran toward Pachtinger and Jones, demanding identification. When Jones asked why his ID was being requested, Yee allegedly responded, “You don’t want to give me your f------ license?” the suit contends.
The lawsuit maintains that Yee, Lieb and the other officers then tackled Jones to the ground, where he was punched in the face by Yee, whose “handcuffs were wrapped around his knuckles” when he hit Jones.
After being punched several more times, Jones maintained in the lawsuit that he was “dragged to a patrol car and pulled inside by his arms which were handcuffed behind his back.”
When Pachtinger asked why Jones was struck in the face, she was handcuffed in a “excessive and forceful manner,” the suit said. When she informed the officers that she had a blood clot condition and requested to have her handcuffs loosened, Yee, Lieb and the other officers “pulled her to the ground by the handcuffs and punched her multiple times in the ribs, stomach and arms,” the suit said.
Both Jones and Pachtinger were transported to police headquarters, where Pachtinger was then taken by ambulance to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune “for treatment of her injuries,” according to the lawsuit.
Jones was charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction and resisting arrest and Pachtinger with disorderly conduct, attempt to cause injury, resisting arrest and interference of business, according to the police report.
During court appearances by Jones and Pachtinger on June 5, 2019, these charges were dismissed and both pleaded guilty to a noise ordinance violation and each paid nearly $1,600 in court costs, according to Belmar Municipal Court.
Although no monetary amount is listed in the civil rights lawsuit, both Pachtinger and Jones are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and payment of attorney’s fees and other costs as the result of suffering “bodily and emotional injuries, medical expenses, lost wages and additional special damages in the future.”
Since the incident, Yee has been promoted to sergeant and Chief Huisman has retired. He was named in the lawsuit for failing “to train, instruct, supervise, control and discipline” the officers while he led the department.
Pachtinger and Jones, who are represented by Freehold-based attorney Thomas Mallon, are seeking a trial by jury. A court date has not been set.
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