Dewey police deny excessive force claims

Two visitors cite failure to train seasonal officers
August 19, 2013

Dewey Beach Police deny they used excessive force in two encounters with resort visitors.

Allen Wedell, a 26-year-old man from Connecticut, and Frank Shock, a 63-year-old resident of Prince George's County, Md., filed separate complaints in the U.S. District Court of Delaware May 31 against the town of Dewey Beach and four of its police officers.  Both complaints accuse the officers of using excessive force and unlawfully detaining the men.

Both complaints were answered by Wilmington attorney Megan Mantzavinos, July 9.  She denies police used violent means to detain Wedell and Shock.

According to court documents, Wedell was pulled over by Cpl. Henry Powell and Cpl. John Jenney for a traffic violation April 22, 2012, in Dewey Beach.  Wedell says he told Jenney his driver's license was in his hotel room.

Powell then approached the passenger's side window and tapped on the glass, the complaint states.  The passenger in Wedell's car started to lower the window, but Wedell overrode the passenger's control and raised the window.

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.

Wedell’s attorney, Stephen Norman, said Powell made several attempts to violently rip Wedell out of the vehicle.

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

"Jenney remained at the scene and did not intervene to stop Powell's egregious behavior," Norman wrote.

Wedell sought medical treatment after he returned to Connecticut, the complaint says.

In the town’s answer to the complaint, Mantzavinos denies any violent attempts were made on behalf of the police officers.  She admits Powell unfastened Wedell’s seatbelt, put him in handcuffs and wrote him a ticket for driving without a license.

Mantzavinos also admitted Lt. Billy Hocker conducted an internal investigation of Powell's behavior and found no violations and no use of excessive force.

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

Defendants seek jury trial

Shock’s complaint says he was riding his bicycle home from Lighthouse Cove when a Dewey Beach patrol car swerved in front of him.

According to the complaint, Cpl. Gregory Lynch and Patrolman Brian Donner got out of the vehicle, picked Shock up from the bike and threw him onto the pavement.

One of the officers put his knees into Shock’s back; Lynch placed his foot on the side of Shock’s face and ground it into the pavement gravel, Norman wrote.

Shock was 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.

“Lynch threatened to take plaintiff to prison in Georgetown if plaintiff did not sign off on the charges for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at that moment in time,” Norman wrote.

According to the complaint, Shock was released from the station after 50 minutes.  He then returned to his house, where a friend called an ambulance, and Shock was taken to Beebe Medical Center.

Shock says he suffered injuries to his head, face, ribs, arms and leg, and he experienced heart palpitations because of the event.

In the town’s answer to the complaint, Mantzavinos admits only that police placed Shock in handcuffs, put him in a police van and took him to Dewey Beach Police Department, where he was kept for 30 minutes.

Shock was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and he signed off on the charges, she wrote.  Mantzavinos denies police threatened to take Shock to Georgetown.

Shock is charging Lynch and Donner with unlawful detention, false imprisonment, use of excessive force, malicious prosecution, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.

Shock says the town exhibits a deliberate indifference to visitors’ constitutional rights, and it fails to supervise and train its police officers.

Both Wedell and Shock are seeking damages for the separate incidents.  Shock also asks the court to issue an injunctive relief ordering the town to discontinue its policy of hiring seasonal police officers.

Mantzavinos argued neither Wedell nor Shock is entitled to damages or attorneys’ fees.  She also said the officers involved were justified in their actions and are protected by qualified and absolute immunity.

“Defendants request a trial by jury of 12 for all matters raised in the parties’ pleadings,” she wrote.


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