Dewey Beach settles police suit for $175,000

Man claimed town police physically and emotionally abused him
August 13, 2014

Dewey Beach has reached a $175,000 settlement in a case in which a man claimed two town police officers physically and emotionally abused him.

The case began more than 14 months ago when Frank Shock, a resident of Prince George’s County, Md., filed a complaint in U.S. District Court of Delaware May 31, 2013, accusing Dewey Beach Police Cpl. Gregory Lynch and Patrolman Brian Donner with using excessive force and being unlawfully detained.

An agreement regarding the settlement amount was reached last week and finalized Aug. 6.

Shock’s trial attorney, Dan Herr, said evidence supporting the claims made it clear Shock’s civil rights had been violated.

“I believe we made a strong case,” he said. “We’re are very happy with the amount and believe it’s a good resolution. Mr. Shock went through a lot.”

According to court documents, Shock was riding his bicycle home from Lighthouse Cove when a Dewey Beach patrol car swerved in front of him.

The complaint states Lynch and Donner got out of the vehicle, picked Shock up from the bike and threw him onto the pavement; an officer put his knees into Shock’s back; and Lynch placed his foot on the side of Shock’s face and ground his face into the pavement gravel.

Shock was then handcuffed, put in a police van and taken to the Dewey Beach Police Department, the complaint states. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

According to the complaint, Shock was released from the station after 50 minutes; he returned to his house, where a friend called an ambulance, and was taken to Beebe Healthcare.

Herr said it was the town that settled because the complaints against the officers were dismissed after both parties reached an agreement.

Wilmington attorney Megan Mantzavinos was the insurance carrier's attorney and represented the town. She said this settlement is in no way an admission of guilt and that ultimately it was a business decision. She said it was clear Shock was riding his bike on the wrong side of the street, heading towards a group of people, and the officers had to make a decision.

But with an uncertain outcome, which she said could have gone badly for Shock, this was a way to “buy your peace,” Mantzavinos said.

Town Manager Marc Appelbaum said the money for the settlement would not be coming out of the town’s coffers because the town’s insurance company will be paying the settlement.

He had no additional comment on the case, other than to say that it was good for the town that it's over.

Second civil case against Dewey

Herr is also the lead trial attorney for the second case, also filed May 31, 2013, by Connecticut resident Allen Wedell.

Wedell has charged Cpl. Henry Powell with unlawful detention, false imprisonment, use of excessive force, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress; Cpl. John Jenney with failure to intervene; and the town with deliberate indifference to constitutional rights and failure to adequately supervise and train its police officers.

Wedell’s complaint, states he was pulled over by Powell and John Jenney for a traffic violation April 22, 2012.

The complaint states the incident turned physical when Powell became upset after Wedell overrode his passenger’s ability to lower their window at Jenney's request.

According to the complaint, Powell screamed at Wedell and questioned why he had raised the window. He then approached the driver's side door, reached through the window, unlocked and opened the door.

At the time of the filing, Wedell’s attorney, Herr’s co-council Stephen Norman, said Powell made several attempts to violently rip Wedell out of the vehicle.

After Wedell was removed from the car, Powell threw Wedell against the rear of the car and handcuffed him, wrote Norman, causing injuries to his abdomen, head and face.

Herr said the case is ongoing, and he could not comment any further.


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