CAMDEN, NJ — A Camden man filed a suit in federal court Friday claiming his civil rights were violated during an arrest in 2018 in which he was punched in the head a dozen times.
Edward Minguela claims, as part of the lawsuit, that he was standing in front of a liquor store on Collings Road in Camden, when he saw “several police vehicles speeding toward his location.”
The officers were in the area on an anonymous complaint of a person with a gun.
Minguela, who had at that point left the area, was stopped by police at gunpoint and ordered to put his hands up — of which he complied, the suit said.
According to the complaint, Camden County police officer Nicholas Romantino used excessive force during Minguela’s arrest — in which he “grabbed [him] around the neck and threw [him] to the ground in an uncontrolled manner.”
The suit also names three other Camden police officers — one of which reportedly left the area while two others held Minguela down as Romantino allegedly, “punched [him] repeatedly in the back of the neck and head, causing pain and physical injury.”
Camden County, former county prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo, former Police Chief Scott Thomson and current Police Chief Joe Wyscoki (a deputy chief at the time) are also named in the suit.
In a press conference, Devon Jacob, Minguela’s attorney, said his client “did nothing wrong” during the incident.
He added that the Camden Prosecutor’s Office, “continues to pursue false criminal charges against Edward Minguela but decline to prosecute Nicholas Romantino for throwing Minguela to the ground and punching him in the back of his head 12 times.”
Jacob said Monday he had no further comment on the matter.
Minguela said he suffered a broken wrist and a concussion as a result of the arrest.
After two trials last year, Romantino was acquitted of criminal charges of violating Minguela’s civil rights and falsifying records linked to the 2018 incident.
Dan Keashen, a spokesman for the Camden County Police Department, told TAPinto Camden that Romantino was suspended without pay following the incident.
“Over the last two years any criminality related to the incident needed to be ruled out by both the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and a federal trial brought by the U.S. Attorney, once those decisions were rendered the personnel matter was remanded back to our agency,” said Keashen. "The department’s Internal Affairs Unit is currently processing the case and a decision will be rendered soon.”
As for Friday’s suit, Keashen said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
The county and prosecutor’s office did not immediately provide comment.
The suit says that Minguela was told by police officers that he’d be jailed and charged for assaulting an officer were he to ask to be taken to the hospital following the altercation.
Minguela claims he was told that if he refused medical treatment he would be released that night.
Instead, “Minguela was issued...two citations [for obstruction and for resisting arrest] in an attempt to justify the unlawful force used against him and to avoid triggering internal department scrutiny.”
Minguela said the next day he sought medical treatment, “he was prevented from getting the prior night.”
Minguela is seeking compensatory, punitive damages, as well as an admission of the allegations and an apology.
He is also requesting a trial by jury on all claims in the matter.