Video has surfaced showing a Beaver Borough, Pennsylvania police officer unleash a K-9 on a man during a traffic stop after dragging him out of his vehicle.
Beaver Patrolman Jeffrey Wijnen-Riems has a long history of alleged abuse. In 2005, six people filed federal lawsuits claiming they were brutalized by the officer in various incidents. Two of those lawsuits were settled for $90,000.
In 2011, a man claimed in a federal lawsuit that he sustained nine long years of abuse by Wijnen-Riems that finally culminated in a beating that ended him up in the hospital after his head was slammed into a window. That suit was settled for $32,500.
According to Attorney Geraldo Benyo, several other individuals have also filed civil rights lawsuits against Wijnen-Riems during his career as a police officer.
Benyo now represents 34-year-old James Cicco who suffered various injuries including a gash under his right armpit at the hands of Wijnen-Riems and his police K-9 during an August traffic stop along Route 68 in Beaver County.
In dash-cam video filmed of the incident, Wijnen-Riems can be seen walking over to Cicco’s car before opening the door and attempting to pull him out. The officer then returns to his car and retrieves his K-9 partner while Cicco exits his vehicle.
Cicco can be seen with his palms up and arms raised as he spies the dog and retreats back into his vehicle. The animal is then released. At the command of Wijnen-Riems, the K-9 lunges at Cicco and grabs hold while the officer helps take him to the ground.
Cicco can be seen writhing in agony as the dog, its teeth clenched, rips at the upper torso area under his right armpit. Wijnen-Riems finally gets the animal to let go of Cicco and takes hold of his arms, knees him in the back and handcuffs him.
The dash-cam footage shows the K-9 then return to gnaw on Cicco while he is handcuffed on the ground. Cicco would require a three day hospital stay at UPMC Presbyterian as a result of his injuries.
Watch the raw footage:
“The video does depict Mr. Cicco getting out of his vehicle with both hands palms out and raised and then he only retreats into his vehicle as officer releases the K-9,” Benyo said.
“This entire incident resulted over an aggressive police officer who was upset because on the way to [a] non-emergency call Mr. Cicco didn’t get out of way fast enough.”
According to Benyo, it took just 13 seconds for Cocci to pull over, but that didn’t stop Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier from charging him with fleeing and eluding a police officer. Cocci was also charged with driving without a license in the incident.
Images of Cocci’s bite wounds are gruesome. Witnesses on the scene said that Wijnen-Riems essentially allowed the K-9 to “eat” him once he was handcuffed on the ground. That didn’t prevent state police from determining the officer’s use of force in the incident was acceptable however.
During Cicco’s trial, Wijnen-Riems testified that he thought Cicco was reaching for a gun or taser in the vehicle. Benyo said he is waiting to see if prosecutors will re-try the case.
Meanwhile, the Beaver police department and officer Wijnen-Riems has been placed on notice about a pending federal lawsuit against them, according to Benyo.
Local news coverage: