A Black disabled man has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the police he claims used excessive force after wrongly accusing him of a crime he did not commit.
“I thought I was going to die in this situation,” said Waverly Lucas, 48, an amputee who uses a prosthetic leg.
“The only reason they stopped him was because of the color of his skin,” said Heather Palmore, chief trial counsel with the Napoli Shkolnik law firm and Lucas’ attorney.
It’s been a year since Lucas of Long Island, New York was the victim of a violent arrest by Suffolk County police as he attempted to visit the convenience store near his home.
“The gas station I was going to was at the corner from my house that I lived for all my life so you might just go there to get a soda or something to drink,” Lucas said.
Lucas says, he just pulled up to a Gulf gas station in the Long Island town of Wyandach, New York, on Aug. 18, 2021, and as he was getting out of his car preparing to go inside, he was putting on his prosthetic leg when Suffolk County police officers Michael Casey and Michael Renna approached him, asking for his identification and accused him of urinating in public.
“There’s no evidence of that, what’s clear is he had stopped his vehicle and he had attempted to put his leg on to walk into the convenience store and there’s nothing else other than that,” Palmore said.
Lucas began recording the police encounter on Facebook Live, which shows what happened next, when police became physically aggressive with him. According to the lawsuit filed over the incident, an officer placed Lucas in a chokehold, then grabbed his arms and wrenched them. After having his arms pulled to be handcuffed, Lucas was shoved towards the police car and placed into the back seat.
“I thought I was going to die in this situation because I’m being choked out and I don’t know if anybody’s ever been choked out, but you go to sleep, and I just thought I was going to die and there was nothing I could do,” Lucas said.
The lawsuit also accuses the officers of pulling on Lucas’ prosthetic leg and throwing it into the trunk of the police car, leaving the amputated Lucas in serious pain.
“It was excruciating pain, when someone is trying to bend something that is connected to your body and when you’ve got your kneecap popping out at the same time, you’re not thinking about any at the time but the pain that you’re going through and that’s all I can remember thinking at the time is the excruciating pain,” Lucas said.
Once taken to jail, Lucas’ troubles continued as he was charged with obstruction, resisting arrest and possession of his doctor-prescribed Oxycodone pain medicine. Those charges were later dropped.
“Maybe an hour or so prior to all of this happening, so it was a brand-new prescription, it was dated and logged and it’s federal record every time you get a narcotic,” Lucas said.
After first being sent to jail, Lucas was taken to a hospital where he did not receive treatment — at least not at first, according to his attorney.
“He wasn’t treated at the hospital because he was in custody at the time and the way he was being treated at the hospital is not that what you would expect,” Palmore said.
Palmore says Lucas returned back to jail to be processed and booked. When Lucas finally left the jail for good, he was taken by ambulance back to the hospital but without his prosthetic leg which had been taken by police, the lawsuit claims Lucas was left to hop on one leg out of the police precinct.
“When he returns back to the hospital, he was made to crawl out of the precinct, crawl out of the precinct and was removed back to the same hospital and had to stay overnight and that’s when he was diagnosed with the fractured orbital due to the arrest,” Palmore said.
With a slew of allegations lodged against the Suffolk County police, Atlanta Black Star requested a response from the Suffolk County Police Department. A spokeswoman said by phone, the department had no comment.
“They performed an illegal search of his vehicle after he was already in custody, took the keys out of his hand and entered his vehicle although he wasn’t there so there are a lot of layers here,” Palmore said.
Lucas filed a $50 million excessive force lawsuit against the police on Aug. 8. He and his lawyer want to see policy change so the department’s pattern of targeting people of color will stop.
“Policy change, disciplinary action against the officers,” Palmore said. “This is a microcosm of what goes on every single day in communities of color here,” she continued.