Law & Justice

Man Alleges New Brunswick Cops Beat Him, Waited Hours to Call for Medical Care

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — A man who was arrested by city police in December 2015 has filed a civil complaint against two officers, the city, the police department and others, alleging police broke his ribs, punctured a lung and waited for hours to get him medical treatment.

Attorneys for New Brunswick and its police officers, meanwhile, have submitted subsequent court documents denying any wrongdoing.

The nine-count lawsuit, filed by city resident Dion Napier in United States District Court in June, seeks an unspecified monetary award for the alleged mistreatment, along with the reimbursement of attorneys' fees, according to a copy of the document obtained by TAPinto New Brunswick.

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In the complaint, Napier claims he was wrongfully arrested and imprisoned on Dec. 8, 2015, after being punched, kneed and pepper-sprayed by two New Brunswick police officers, Jonathan Rivera and Michael Powers. The complaint also claims that as many as 10 unnamed cops allowed Napier to sit in a holding cell for four hours, “writhing in pain,” before being taken to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery.

Further, Napier's complaint claims, the city, its police force and Police Director Anthony Caputo enabled the alleged incident to occur due to improper training and policies or practices, which created a culture that allowed excessive force and the violation of rights.

“The plaintiff has sustained permanent physical and psychological trauma, has suffered great pain and discomfort and continues to experience physical and psychological damage,” reads the complaint, referencing the arrest's alleged effects on Napier.

Shortly after the incident, residents took to City Hall to voice their concerns about the police department's alleged treatment of Napier, according to a story by New Brunswick Today.

The city and its police department have strongly rejected any claims of police brutality resulting from the Napier arrest. City officials, however, declined to comment on pending litigation when asked today by TAPinto New Brunswick.

But in his defense against the civil complaint, Rivera—one of two arresting officers—claimed that Napier handed him a bag of marijuana after police noticed a “faint smell” of the drug coming from the car he was in. Then, Rivera claimed, Napier took off running, and police chased him down.

The police officer claimed that Napier was found guilty of the criminal charges that “were the basis” of his arrest.

Each defendant denied each allegation raised by Napier—from stomping on his constitutional rights and using excessive force to directly causing his injuries.

But Napier offered a different story in his complaint.

In that document, Napier didn't admit any wrongdoing—only that police claimed he had weed. What's more, the complaint claims, Napier was sitting in a friend's car near D'Palace Bar on Throop Avenue, eating food and “not engaged in any criminal activity” at the time of the incident.

Rivera and Powers pulled behind Napier and gave him a warning for tinted windows, even though he didn't own the vehicle, the complaint alleges. They soon returned and said they heard there was an arrest warrant out for Napier, which he claimed was for a different person with a similar name, the document alleges.

Eventually, Napier “became nervous” due to the officers' behavior and ran, the complaint claims. Rivera and Powers eventually caught up with him and “engaged in unreasonable and excessive force,” breaking his ribs, puncturing his lung, causing bruises and lacerations and burning his eyes and skin, the complaint alleges.

The cops brought Napier to police headquarters, the complaint alleges, where he waited in a cell and complained about his injuries. But no one in the building offered to get him medical care for hours, the document alleges.

When he finally did receive treatment, the wait had allegedly exacerbated his injuries, the document claims. Then he underwent surgery to repair his lung, according to the complaint.

Napier claims that the conduct and actions of the police officers and the department were intentional, reckless, malicious and with disregard for his rights and welfare. What's more, he claims, this type of behavior is institutional and endangers the public at large.

Napier's looking for a jury trial, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and any other relief deemed appropriate.

While the defendants haven't admitted in court papers to any physical contact, they have argued that any injuries or damages to Napier were caused by someone “presently unknown” to the defendants or Napier himself.

“The intentional, unlawful and criminal conduct of the plaintiff is the direct and proximate cause of his damages, if any,” an attorney for Rivera wrote in his response to the complaint.

Altogether, in writing, the city and its employees have offered up more than 100 separate defenses to the claims made by Napier. They also claimed that Napier filed the lawsuit in bad faith and should be forced to pay their attorneys' fees.

The city government has agreed to pay the legal fees for the affected employees.

Napier, meanwhile, claims that the alleged “battery” against him has caused suffering, emotional distress, humiliation and even a loss of income.

Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni has ordered all parties to appear for a scheduling conference at 3 p.m. Aug. 21 at the U.S. Courthouse in Trenton.

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