MAYS LANDING, N.J. (CN) – A New Jersey state trooper beat and pepper sprayed a young man with epilepsy in a dispute over nuts and bolts in a backyard car, the man’s mother claims in court.
The trooper pepper sprayed his mom too, for no more reason than she assaulted her disabled son, the mother says.
Craig P. Williams and his parents, Brenda and Billy Williams Jr., sued New Jersey State Troopers S.M. Swift, N.J. Stavoli and J.J. Traini, in Atlantic County Court.
Brenda says she called state police on the night of April 20, 2011 after Craig reported seeing three people hiding in tall grass behind their home.
Trooper Swift arrived first.
Swift found an unregistered car in the backyard and searched it after Brenda told him the car was a hobby for her son, whose epilepsy prevents him from driving.
Craig, 23, got epilepsy as a result of serious brain trauma in a car accident in 2005.
Trooper Swift found a bag of nuts and bolts in the car, and Craig told him what it was. Swift said that “it didn’t look like that to him, and he ordered Craig to open the door,” the family says in the complaint.
It continues: “Craig began to explain that he had just painted the interior of the door, but that he could open the other side. At that point Trp. Swift exclaimed, ‘There’s a hard way and an easy way’. Swift then put Craig in a head lock and began dousing his face with pepper spray. Craig immediately recoiled, yelling about the burn and the inability to see. As Craig backed away from the trooper, Brenda began yelling, ‘What are you doing’?, ‘Why are you doing this?’
“By this point, Craig had distanced himself approximately four feet from Trp. Swift, when Craig was sprayed a second time. Brenda screamed again, telling the trooper to stop and that ‘He’s got brain damage, he doesn’t know what you’re doing’. Craig, his hands now covering his eyes, began running toward the house to wash out the spray. By this time Craig’s father, Billy, had appeared at the side door, having heard the screams outside. Brenda yelled to her husband that she had ‘called the cops’ and now ‘this trooper sprayed Craig with pepper spray’.
“Trp. Swift then yelled to Brenda and Billy that ‘he swung at me – you saw him – he swung at me.’ Brenda, crying and visibly shaken, turned and went back into her house to try and assist Craig. Trp. Swift stayed outside. When Brenda reached the inside of her home she called 911 reporting the assault on her son and telling the dispatcher that Craig was having trouble breathing after being sprayed with pepper spray although she didn’t know why he had been.”
Things got worse when four other state police cars arrived.
“Defendant Stavoli began kicking the front door, pounding it, while at the same time yelling, ‘open the f-ing door’, while Brenda remained on the 911 call,” the complaint states. “Other troopers were also at the side door when Billy opened it. Troopers Swift, Stavoli, Traini and Cocking all rushed into the home demanding to know where Craig was. When told he was in the bathroom washing his eyes, Trp. Swift banged on the door and Craig opened it. At that point Swift rushed in, confronted Craig and punched him, while placing his leg behind Craig causing Craig to fall backwards hitting his head on the bathtub. Swift again sprayed Craig and both Brenda and Billy watched as Troopers Swift and Stavoli repeatedly punched Craig in the head and torso, Trp. Stavoli actually sitting on top of Craig while punching.
“Brenda, stunned at the assault being perpetrated on her son, moved toward the bathroom screaming and pleading with the troopers to stop. As she approached the doorway, Trp. Traini pushed her in the chest causing her to fall into the spare bedroom. Traini then screamed that she was a ‘lousy f-ing bitch’, a ‘horrible mother,’ took hold of her and slammed her face into the door jamb of the spare bedroom. The trooper thereafter stomped on her foot, and brought her to the floor with the trooper landing on top of her. While Traini was screaming at Brenda to give him her ‘f-ing arm’ while Brenda was saying ‘I can’t, you have my arm pinned’.”
As Craig’s father began filming the ordeal on his cell phone, “Stavoli ordered that he be immediately arrested for obstruction.
“Ultimately, Craig was handcuffed on the bathroom floor, literally drug out of the house along the floor, down the steps and onto the cement and thrown into the back of the troop car. Craig was yelling for help from the back seat when troopers walked around, opened the door and struck him with a metal object. Thereafter, Stavoli came back to Craig and pulled his legs from the back seat making them extend to outside of the troop car. At that point he smashed the door on Craig’s legs as Craig continued to scream for help while Stavoli laughed. Brenda and Billy were transported in a separate troop car,” the complaint states.
Craig was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer. His parents were charged with obstruction, forcing Craig “to expend the money of his parents for a criminal defense, resulting in dismissal of all criminal charges and a singular plea to a disorderly person’s offense of obstruction. Plaintiff Craig P. William’s factual basis for that charge was that he ran into his home,” the complaint states.
The family seeks compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights violations.They are represented by Louis Barbone with Jacobs and Barbone in Atlantic City.
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