A man in Washington, D.C. is suing after an intrusive stop-and-frisk in which an officer probed his anus and grabbed his genitals during what was supposed to be a routine pat down last year.
The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. (ACLU) filed the lawsuit Wednesday accusing a Metropolitan Police Department officer of performing “an unconstitutional and exceedingly invasive bodily search” without probable cause.
“I have never been so humiliated in my life,” victim M.D. Cottingham said in a statement. “It’s bad enough that members of my community are stopped and frisked by the police all the time. I’ve been frisked many times and even beaten by police. But this officer treated me like I’m not even a human being.”
Disturbing video of the Sept. 27 incident shows Cottingham, 29, being frisked by Metro PD Officer Daniel Sean Lojacono in the city’s Bellvue neighborhood. Cottingham, who makes a living as an ice cream vendor, was discussing plans for his birthday with a group friends on the sidewalk when two police cars suddenly pulled up beside them, ACLU officials said. One of the men had opened up a bottle of alcohol. That’s when officers hopped out and asked if the group if they had any weapons.
Cottingham and his friends denied having anything on them, but the ice cream vendor pulled a legal amount of weed from his sock and agreed to let Lojacono pat him down in an effort to further avoid a confrontation. However, the officer’s search “far exceeded the scope of a standard pat-down for weapons,” the ACLU argued.
Lojacono allegedly jammed his fingers between Cottingham’s buttocks, placed his thumb in his anus and grabbed his scrotum, all through the victim’s sweatpants.
“He stuck his finger in my crack, man,” Cottingham tells his friends during the search, the video shows. “Don’t do that, man … I don’t have nothing.”
Despite his repeated objections, Lojacono and another continued the invasive cavity search.
“Stop fingering me though, bruh,” Cottingham shouts. “You fingering my a–, man.”
“I’m outside your pants, bro,” the officer responds. “Relax.”
Scott Michelman, the senior ACLU staff attorney representing Cottingham, called the search a “shocking and unjustified invasion” of his client’s privacy and constitutional rights.
” … When a routine frisk turns into a search this invasive, the officer is not pursuing a legitimate law enforcement purpose but simply degrading someone and asserting his own power,” Michelman said.
According to ACLU officials, the department’s police chief Peter Newsham acknowledged seeing video of the incident and said Lojacono had touched Cottingham “inappropriately.” Michelman said what happened to his client is yet another example of aggressive policing practices by the MPD.
After the search, Cottingham not only suffered pain to his genitals but now experiences ongoing anxiety, depression and fear of going out in public, the civil rights group said. He wasn’t able to work for a month following the incident.