CLEVELAND — A black man says in a federal lawsuit that police officers in a Cleveland suburb used a stun gun and pepper spray on him without provocation.
The civil rights lawsuit filed Thursday by 36-year-old Lamar Wright says two Euclid police officers lied and falsely charged him with crimes after he pulled into a driveway to use his cellphone in November 2016. Police claimed they suspected Wright of being involved in drug trafficking and feared he had a gun.
No drugs or weapons were found in Wright’s rental car.
The lawsuit is the latest accusation of excessive use-of-force against Euclid police. A police officer was fired in October after dash cam footage showed him repeatedly punching an unarmed black man during a traffic stop. The family of 23-year-old Luke Stewart, who was black, sued Euclid in October after an officer fatally shot him while they struggled for control of a car.
“I filed this case to stand up against police brutality, and to stand with other victims of senseless attacks by officers from the Euclid Police Department,” Wright said in a statement. “These officers’ illegal treatment of people in the city must stop.”
The lawsuit accuses the officers of violating his civil rights. It also accuses the Euclid Police Department of engaging in a pattern of excessive use of force and malicious prosecution, especially against black people, along with a failure to hold officers accountable for misconduct.
Police spokesman Mitch Houser said the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation. He said neither of the officers involved in Wright’s arrest, Kyle Flagg and Vashon Williams, were disciplined afterward.
Wright feared the two officers, dressed in street clothes, were carjackers and started to drive away but stopped and raised his hands when he realized who they were, the lawsuit said.
Body camera footage shows Wright immediately complying when Flagg opens the driver’s door and orders Wright to turn off the engine. Flagg is then seen grabbing Wright’s left arm and pushing him against the steering wheel.
Wright can be heard yelling that Flagg was hurting his arm while Flagg orders him to show his right hand. The lawsuit claims Wright tried to tell the officers he had a colostomy bag and staples in his stomach when Flagg uses a stun gun on him and Williams squirts him in the face with pepper spray. Wright, who had surgery several weeks before the incident, is then seen getting out of the car and dropping to the ground.
Flagg said in a police report he thought Wright was reaching for a gun.
Wright was treated at a hospital and taken to jail. Charges of obstruction of official business and resisting arrest were dropped by prosecutors in June.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages and demands that Euclid institute police reforms.