Cops sued for excessive force after mistaking Star Trek memorabilia for weapons
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Two Florida brothers have decided to boldly go ahead and sue Fort Lauderdale police for excessive force — claiming cops violently detained them, in part, because they mistook harmless Star Trek memorabilia for real weapons.
In a civil rights lawsuit filed Monday, Raymond and Randall Purcell are seeking a minimum $75,000 in damages in the 2017 incident involving Officer Alexander Paul, the Miami Herald reported.
Paul and another cop, Officer Steven Pohorence, had responded to the home after Raymond, then 62, called 911 alleging his and his wife’s cars had been keyed by a relative, the Herald reported.
But the officers told him there would be no arrest or police report filed because the damage to the vehicles appeared to be under $1,000 and the relative was no longer at the location.
An infuriated Raymond slammed his fist on the hood of the car in the garage and also tossed a flashlight — away from the direction of the cops — that he had been using to show the officers the vandalism, according to the suit.
When Raymond tried to enter his home, Paul and Pohorence forcefully detained him and his brother, the suit says.
The officers said in depositions that they felt threatened by the brothers because they knew Raymond had a concealed gun permit and a firearm on the premises.
They also saw “weapons all over the wall,” Paul said — but, the suit argues, the display was actually “Star Trek” memorabilia and decorative blades.
Asked whether they had probable cause to arrest Raymond, the cops said they did not. “We were detaining him for an officer-safety issue,” Pohorence said, according to the report.
The suit alleges that during the altercation, Paul hit Raymond with the butt of his gun, slammed him to the ground and pulled his arms so forcefully that he “heard a snap in his arms and went limp,” the suit says.
Paul then allegedly punched the man, who told the officer he was disabled, “with so much force that it knocked Raymond’s acrylic partial dentures out of his mouth,” according to the filing.
When his brother tried to intervene, the suit alleges Pohorence kicked him, put his foot on his face and left him with a half-inch cut near his eye, according to the Herald.
“As a direct and proximate result of the city’s negligent supervision, retention and training of defendants Pohorence and Paul, [the Purcells] were subject to injury, including deprivations of their civil rights and state law rights,” the plaintiff’s attorneys wrote.
The Purcells “suffered damages, including mental anguish, bodily injury, pain and suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of earnings, and loss of ability to earn money,” according to the suit.
According to the lawsuit, both officers were cleared after a police internal affairs investigation of their conduct at the Purcell home concluded in 2019 – but the files were never submitted to the Citizens’ Police Review Board.
“It is unfortunate and unsurprising that the Fort Lauderdale Police Department’s internal affairs investigation cleared both officers of wrongdoing,” the brothers’ attorney, Michael Davis, told the Miami Herald.
“It is yet another example of the need for a system in which these types of investigations seek justice rather than justification,” he added.
Last year, Pohorence was charged with first-degree misdemeanor battery in connection with a clash between protesters and police that followed the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd.
The officer, who has been reviewed by the department’s internal affairs unit for using force 79 times, was suspended after the incident and is now on administrative leave without pay, the news outlet reported.
Meanwhile, Paul is being sued in another case for shooting a 30-year-old man in June 2019 during a confrontation at a bus terminal.
The man, Melvin Wring, alleges that Paul used unnecessary deadly force and is asking a minimum of $30,000 in damages.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department did not respond to a request for comment by the newspaper on the new lawsuit.
Brandon Diaz, president of the Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police, said the organization had not yet heard of the suit Tuesday evening and would not comment.
City Attorney Alain Boileau declined to comment to the Herald, citing the pending litigation.
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