Two police officers, City of Springfield sued in death of teen www.privateofficer.com
The lawsuit is the latest in a string of civil rights complaints against Springfield police pending in federal court in Springfield. At least five civil rights lawsuits are pending against Springfield police in the court.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Springfield, charges that police and the city violated the civil rights of Delano M. Walker Jr. Walker was hit by a motor vehicle amid a confrontation with Patrolman Sean Sullivan and Sgt. Peter A. Albano on East Columbus Avenue in July of 2009.
“It’s obviously a tragedy,” said Luke Ryan, a Northampton lawyer for the estate of Walker. “We feel as though the officers didn’t act appropriately. That’s why we filed the suit.”
The suit names Sullivan, Albano and the city as defendants.
Springfield Police detective Richard Rodrigues, a spokesman for the department, declined comment, saying the department had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
In 2010, Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet had cleared Sullivan of any misconduct in connection with the death. Fitchet, following a departmental internal investigation and a formal hearing, ruled there was no basis to impose any disciplinary action against Sullivan, an 13-year veteran of the police force.
Walker was stopped by the two officers at about 10:15 p.m., ordered to get off his bicycle and to end a phone conversation, the suit said. Police had no arrest warrant for Walker and no probable cause for his arrest, the suit said.
When Walker did not immediately comply with the order, Sullivan lunged toward him, forcing the teenager into the path of an oncoming motor vehicle, the suit said.
The suit charges Sullivan with assault and battery and both officers with false arrest.
Albano was grossly negligent and reckless in supervising Sullivan, the suit said.
The nine-count lawsuit says the officers violated Walker’s constitutional rights to due process, to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and to be free from excessive punishment.
The suit seeks a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages.
An internal investigation and hearing was ordered by Fitchet one day after the accident on July 16.
Two teenage witnesses, also both 15, who were with Walker that night, filed statements and testified at the hearing. They told investigators, according to statements obtained by The Republican, that Sullivan’s actions included grabbing Walker by the neck and lunging at him as Walker backed into the roadway and into the path of car.
According to an article in The Republican in 2010, Sullivan and Albano, a 32-year department veteran, reported that Walker repeatedly ignored the patrolman’s orders to get off his cell phone and, when Sullivan attempted to take the phone away, took a “fighting stance” and reached for his pants’ pocket.
“At this point, I was concerned for my safety, not knowing what he was reaching for,” Sullivan wrote in his report. An “unopened folding pocket knife” was later found under Walker ‘s body.
According to police statements, Sullivan and Albano, assigned to a special car break detail, stopped to question Walker and two other bicyclists near the car dealership’s parking lot at East Columbus Avenue and Mill Street.
Sullivan described reaching for Walker twice during the confrontation. “As I reached for him a second time, he took multiple steps back and it was at this point, I noticed a vehicle approaching from my left,” Sullivan’s report stated. “Before I could do or say anything, Mr. Walker stepped right in the path of the vehicle.”
While Sullivan was cleared by the internal investigation, no charges were considered against Albano, according to the article in The Republican.