Ramming Man on Condo Grounds May Cost Cop

     (CN) – A police officer accused of using an unmarked car to chase and run down a man in a condominium courtyard must face excessive-force claims, a federal judge ruled.
     Michael Torres claims he had been talking with another tenant in a grassy, common area of their Lindenwold, N.J., condo complex, Arborwood, on the evening of Aug. 25, 2012, when a dark-colored vehicle approached.
     Though the area was not accessible by cars and had no paved roadways, the car gave chase and eventually hit Torres, according to the complaint.
     Torres says the vehicle stopped after running over his leg, causing an open wound and serious injuries.
     He was allegedly unaware that the vehicle was an unmarked police car until the driver and passenger got out and identified themselves as law enforcement.
     Torres says Patrolman Edward Slimm and Slimm’s partner arrested him on suspicion of drug distribution and resisting arrest, then took him to the hospital.
     After he was released on his own recognizance, the charges were dismissed, according to the complaint.
     Slimm, his partner and the other defendants – the police chief and the borough off Lindenwold – moved to dismiss the case, but U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman in Camden let everyone off the hook except Slimm.
     “The facts in plaintiff’s complaint state a claim for excessive force against Officer Slimm because, according to plaintiff, Slimm was the driver of the unmarked police car who ran over plaintiff’s leg in an effort to effect his arrest,” the June 26 decision states. “Evidence gathered through discovery will determine whether Slimm acted objectively reasonably, and therefore entitled to qualified immunity.”
     Hillman also upheld the assault and battery and negligence claims against Slimm.
     “Plaintiff claims that when Officer Slimm chased him with the car and ran over him with his vehicle, Slimm committed assault and battery,” Hillman wrote. “This claim is sufficient to proceed.”
     In tossing a municipal liability claims against the borough, Hillman said that “Officer Slimm’s conduct, if true, could have contravened the training he received.”
     Hillman noted the absence of “an allegation that the borough did not train officers driving unmarked vehicles on apprehending suspects on foot or an allegation that the borough was on notice that officers used their vehicles to subdue fleeing suspects by striking them.”
     The judge later added: “While we recognize that the borough could be liable if it was aware of a practice of unconstitutional conduct by its officers or simply failed to implement any training on the use of force at all, plaintiff plead no facts in support of such claims.”
     As for the Fourth Amendment claims against Slimm’s partner, Hillman noted that there is no allegation about his “involvement in the incident,” other than the claim that he was a passenger the unmarked police car Slimm drove.
     Torres also “does not provide any substance to support … [the] conclusory allegation” that the police chief was the final decisionmaker for the police department.
     Torres has 20 days to amend these dismissed claims, according to the ruling.
     The defendants have not returned a request for comment.

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