Resort Contends Taser Use Needed To Apprehend Suspect

OCEAN CITY — Citing a necessary and appropriate use of force, resort officials late last week filed a formal answer to a $500,000 civil suit filed earlier this year by a Massachusetts man allegedly tased by an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer during a fight in September 2020.

Earlier this year, Lucas Joaquim, now 23, of Peabody, Mass., filed suit in U.S. District Court against an OCPD officer, the police chief and the Mayor and Council after he was allegedly tased during an altercation in the resort of 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 deployed his conducted electrical weapon (CEW), or taser, on him as he got up from the ground during the altercation.

Last week, the named defendants, through their attorney, filed a formal answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, seeking a complete dismissal of the $500,000 civil suit. In the answer, the defendants acknowledge many of the salient facts of the incident, but systematically deny most of the plaintiff’s claims. The formal answer to the complaint lays out the defendants’ version of the incident.

“Defendants admit that on September 26, in the area of 46th Street and Coastal Highway, there was a physical altercation between the plaintiff and two non-parties and that the plaintiff and one of the non-parties were assaulting each other, and that during the altercation, the plaintiff was pushing a non-party into and toward the vehicular traffic lanes of Coastal Highway,” the answer reads. “Defendants admit that while the plaintiff was assaulting the non-party and pushing the non-party into the vehicular traffic lanes of Coastal Highway, the OCPD officer properly drew his department issued conductive electrical weapon.”

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The defendants’ answer filed last week acknowledges the officer deployed his CEW only after the plaintiff failed to heed the officer’s orders and attempted to flee the scene.

“The officer properly targeted the plaintiff with the CEW’s targeting lasers while the plaintiff was still assaulting the non-party, and that the officer gave proper warnings, which were unheeded by the plaintiff,” the answer reads. “The officer then deployed the CEW probes into the plaintiff,” the answer reads. “Defendants admit that one probe struck the plaintiff, but the second probe missed. The plaintiff let go of the non-party at that time, but was not neuro-muscularly incapacitated. The plaintiff failed and refused to follow instructions to get on the ground and he attempted to move away from the officer, at which time the officer properly deployed his CEW a second time, this time resulting in neuro-muscular incapacitation.”

In the formal answer filed last week, the defendants assert the officer’s use of his CEW against the plaintiff during the incident was necessary and appropriate given the situation, and that all of the department’s officers are properly trained in the use of CEWs when the situation calls for it.

“Defendants aver that whether the plaintiff consented to the use of force is irrelevant, and that by his conduct, he subjected himself to necessary and appropriate force by law enforcement,” the answer reads. “Defendants admit that Ocean City, through its police department and departmental practices and procedures properly trains and supervisors consistent with applicable standards.”

As a result, the formal answer seeks a complete dismissal of the civil suit.

“Defendants each demand that judgment be entered in defendants’ favor, and against the plaintiff as to all of the plaintiff’s claims as advanced in the complaint,” the answer reads. “Defendants demand such claims should be dismissed with prejudice in their entirety, and that plaintiff be denied all of the relief he seeks in this case.”

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 court record of that individual’s arrest or any charges against him here. The complaint goes on to allege what transpired after the officer deployed his taser against the plaintiff.

The suit includes six counts, including deprivation of civil rights, battery, negligent hiring, training and supervision and false imprisonment. 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.

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.