One of the officers reported that he was in fear for his life during a tussle with the man.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A 48-year-old East Side man has sued two city police officers, alleging he was assaulted and wrongfully arrested.
Jesse L. Benson, of Wardle Avenue, alleges that patrol officers Edward Colon and Anthony Vitullo "assaulted, battered and falsely arrested" him in October 1999, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Youngstown.
Benson was arrested after an Oct. 24, 1999, traffic stop and charged with felony assault on a police officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest, obstructing official business and failure to comply with the order of a police officer. The charges were later dropped.
"[F]or the purpose of dissuading and oppressing the Plaintiff, and covering-up in an attempt to justify or excuse their unlawful conduct, Defendants, willfully, maliciously and without probable cause, caused the filing of criminal complaints against Plaintiff," reads the lawsuit, filed by attorney Michael D. Rossi of Warren.
The suit claims that Benson's Constitutional rights were violated and seeks $250,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.
In a police report filed upon Benson's arrest, Colon wrote that he stopped Benson in his driveway after he failed to dim his high beam lights and turned without signaling. Benson had tried to enter his home when stopped by the officer.
When Colon requested a pat-down to see if Benson had any weapons, Benson became agitated, reached into his pockets and behind his back and refused to allow the search, the officer said.
A tussle ensued and the officer was pushed to the ground, with Benson falling and rolling on top of him, pushing him into mud before pinning him to the ground, the report says.
Colon wrote in the report that he was "in fear for his life" as he grabbed Benson's hands in an effort to protect his face and his weapon.
Vitullo arrived during the tussle and pulled Benson off Colon. Benson then tried to fight both officers and Vitullo eventually sprayed his face with Mace, the report says.
Colon reported that he had abrasions to his left forearm and right shin and his uniform was torn and drenched in mud.
Benson suffered injuries, pain and suffering, incurred legal expenses, lost an employment opportunity and endured "shame, humiliation, embarrassment, indignity, anger and other distress of mind" as a result of the officers' actions, the lawsuit claims.
Charge was dropped
The felony assault charge against Benson was dropped in Youngstown Municipal Court in December 1999 after Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr. ruled that there was no probable cause to proceed with the charge, court records show. The misdemeanor charges were dismissed last month.
Both Colon and Vitullo were hired by the department in the summer of 1997.