$500K Civil Suit Filed Against OCPD Over Tasing

$500K Civil Suit Filed Against OCPD Over Tasing
File photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – A Massachusetts man, allegedly stabbed during a fight in September 2020 and later allegedly tased by an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer, earlier this year filed a civil suit against the department, the officer and the police chief seeking $500,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Earlier this year, Lucas Joaquim, now 23, of Peabody, Mass., filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking damages against an OCPD officer, the police chief and the department, via the Mayor and Council, after he was allegedly tased during a fight in the resort on September 26, 2020. The suit is seeking $400,000 in compensatory damages and another $100,000 in punitive damages against the named defendants in the case.

In the complaint, Joaquim asserts he was unknowingly stabbed during an assault by assailants. Joaquim, in the complaint, asserts an OCPD officer arriving on the scene of the incident deployed his conducted electrical weapon (CEW), or Taser, on him as he got up from the ground.

“While the plaintiff was being assaulted by the assailant, the plaintiff unknowingly suffered a stab would to the left side of his torso from another assailant during the time of the assault,” the complaint reads. “The officer appeared, at which time the assailant began to flee the scene of the assault. As the plaintiff stood to his feet and turned around, the officer approached the plaintiff. The plaintiff raised both hands up, not resisting nor aggressive, and immediately thereafter, without the threat of imminent harm, the officer discharged a Taser, or a conducted electrical weapon, twice in the plaintiff’s torso.”

It’s important to note Joaquim was arrested and charged with second-degree assault, disorderly conduct and affray following the incident. Each of those charges were placed on the stet, or inactive, docket last July. It’s also important to note the complaint names the plaintiff’s assailant, but there is no court record of that individual’s arrest or any charges against him. The complaint goes on to allege what transpired after the officer deployed his Taser against the plaintiff.

“The plaintiff fell to the ground and was immediately arrested and unlawfully detained,” the complaint reads. “There were no lawful orders given to the plaintiff prior to the officer’s unlawful discharge of his Taser. Following the plaintiff’s arrest and detention, he learned of his wounds from the Taser discharge and stab injury and sought medical assistance from the personnel at the detention center, which was not provided promptly.”

The complaint alleges the plaintiff has, and continues to, sustain various damages as a result of the incident.

“As a direct and proximate result of the actions described above taken by the officer, which were committed under the color of law and in his role as a police officer with the town of Ocean City, Maryland, the plaintiff suffered physical and mental pain and suffering, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, fright, and inconvenience,” the complaint reads. “He incurred medical expenses and other fees associated with the officer’s actions.”

The complaint alleges excessive force disproportionate to the incident by the OCPD officer.

“The plaintiff was a victim of punishment administered in a grossly disproportionate manner to whatever his acts may have been, constituting cruel and unusual punishment, and depriving him of the right to due process under the laws and Constitution of the United States,” the complaint reads. “The actions described above were unwarranted, cruel, unjustifiable and excessive.”

The police chief and the department are also named as defendants for allegedly failing to train its officers on the appropriate level of force during incidents.

“The failure of the town of Ocean City, Maryland police department and the police chief to provide training and supervision regarding the lawful use of force amounts to gross negligence and a deliberate indifference to the safety and lives of the citizens of the town of Ocean City,” the complaint reads. “This gross negligence was a proximate cause of the injuries to the plaintiff.”

The complaint also asserts OCPD staff did not quickly respond to the plaintiff’s request for medical assistance following the alleged stabbing, and ultimately, the alleged tasing of the plaintiff by the OCPD officer.

“The town of Ocean City, Maryland police department breached its duty when it did not train the personnel to call for or otherwise obtain medical assistance for an individual in custody with a serious medical emergency,” the complaint reads. “The town of Ocean City, Maryland police department breached its duty when it did not supervise the personnel to ensure that he would call for, or otherwise obtain, medical assistance for an individual in custody with a serious medical emergency.”

The suit includes six counts, including deprivation of civil rights, battery, negligent hiring, training and supervision and false imprisonment. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court earlier this year. Last week, the town’s attorney filed a motion seeking an extension of time for which to formally answer the complaint. The motion was granted by a federal judge on Monday. As a result, the defendants’ deadline to formally answer the complaint has been extended to June 30.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.