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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Cops Still on the Hook for Alleged Teen Beating

(CN) - Pennsylvania police may be liable for allegedly tackling a shirtless 19-year-old from behind and repeatedly beating him in the head and face with a flashlight, a federal judge ruled.

Kevin Wilson and Julius Bradley sued the City of Chester, its housing authority and three police officers in August 2010 over an incident that occurred on Oct. 9, 2009.

Bradley's claims were dismissed this past June, and the housing authority and one of the officers were dismissed as defendants according to an agreement among parties.

The pair had allegedly left a dance at the Leake Recreation Center around 11 p.m. when Wilson, then 19, noticed two police cars driving toward him and his group of about 20 friends.

While an officer began speaking with Wilson's cousin, Wilson continued walking -- until Officer Joshua Dewees suddenly tackled him from behind, according to the federal complaint.

Dewees insisted that Wilson and his friends had been "ripping their shirts off, swinging them around and using foul language" to rile up the crowd, and that Wilson elbowed his face.

But Wilson said he never touched Dewees, who "bounced" him off of an approaching cop car and then beat his head and face with a 15-inch metal flashlight while two other officers held him back, Wilson testified.

Though Wilson tried to surrender, the officers allegedly picked him up from his knees and struck him twice more. Dewees then handcuffed Wilson, placed him face down on a police car trunk and demanded that he wipe up his blood with his shirt, Wilson testified.

Wilson said his requests for medical attention were ignored for 22 hours, and after his mother posted bail and took him home, he blacked out and was later diagnosed with a concussion.

As a result, Wilson had to see a psychologist for about four months and continues to have headaches and fear flashlights and people coming near, he claimed.

Dewees charged Wilson with disorderly conduct, harassment, resisting arrest, failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order, aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. The affidavit makes no mention of a flashlight.

A state judge dismissed all charges against Wilson about six months later.

On July 8, U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick dismissed all but Wilson's claims against Officer David Brockway and Dewees for excessive force under the Fourth Amendment, false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, malicious prosecution under state and federal law, and emotional distress.

Claims against a third officer, Edward Corangi, and the housing authority were dismissed with prejudice under a deal they struck with the plaintiffs.

Brockway, who said he helped make the arrest after seeing "an arm fly," moved for summary judgment, and Dewees moved for partial summary judgment.

Judge Surrick partially denied the motions earlier this month, tossing aside Dewees' reliance on the fact that the dance crowd was "hyper" and that Wilson had drunk two beers at the dance.

"Nowhere in the record is there any statement that plaintiff was acting at all intoxicated," Surrick wrote, declining to dismiss the false arrest and imprisonment claims.

The judge later added: "Plaintiff simply crossing at an intersection does not provide probable cause to justify Officer Dewees's stop and seizure of plaintiff."

Though Wilson did not identify Brockway in court, his excessive force claims survived.

"If we are to accept plaintiff's testimony, which we must for purposes of this motion, we are satisfied that a jury may find Officer Brockway's involvement in the arrest of plaintiff unlawful," Surrick wrote.

However, the judge dismissed the claims for malicious prosecution against Brockway and for emotional distress against both officers.

Trial was set to begin Oct. 15.

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