An Allentown, Pennsylvania man is alleging in an excessive force lawsuit, that police shocked him with a stun gun and then beat him unconscious after initially stopping him for riding his bicycle without a headlight.
41-year-old Edgardo Garcia Fontanez says he was riding a bicycle about a block from his home on Seventh Street the night of Jan. 17, 2014, when officer Ryan Murray began yelling “stop,” before deploying his taser sending him crashing to the ground.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Allentown, says as Fontanez lay in the street, he was subjected to a second taser strike before Murray and an additional officer punched him in the head, face and body, knocking him unconscious.
Police had initially claimed that Murray saw Fontanez riding his bicycle at night without a headlight and attempted to stop him to give him a ticket, before giving chase when he refused to comply.
Police reports said Murray and two other officers chased Fontanez until he crashed the bicycle in the 500 block of North Seventh Street. The report made no mention that any officer used their taser against him.
The report said only that Fontanez was taken into custody after a “reasonable amount of force” was used against him.
In the lawsuit, Fontanez claims the officers did not identify themselves before violating his constitutional rights to be free from unlawful search and seizure, unreasonable force, and to be secure in his person and property.
The suit also alleges the officers are liable for assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Fontanez is seeking $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
He suffered head and facial injuries and was treated at Sacred Heart Hospital after his arrest, the lawsuit says, which also notes Murray allegedly used the taser even though the device’s manufacturer warns against deploying it on a person who is at risk for falling.
“There have been several catastrophic cases where people hit with a Taser while running have fallen and hit a curb,” Fontanez’s attorney, Patrick Geckle said. “I have a real problem with using a Taser on someone who was riding a bicycle.”
The suit is the latest of at least 10 excessive force lawsuits filed against the Allentown Police Department.