A Lancaster Township man has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Lancaster city police officers of using excessive force by deploying a stun gun against him and manhandling him in the wake of a routine traffic stop two years ago.
The suit acknowledges Kenneth D. Gross complained verbally but says he displayed no behavior that would warrant the officers’ actions. It says he “suffered and continues to suffer physical and psychological harm ... as well as financial losses.”
The Oct. 11 filing in the U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania’s Eastern District lists officers Joel Thomas, Christopher Kophamel, Isaac Witmer and 10 unnamed officers referred to as “John Does.” It names the city of Lancaster as a defendant as well.
The suit requests the officers stand trial and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
City Chief of Staff Jess King said the city cannot comment on pending litigation.
Kophamel and Thomas are among five officers named in another excessive force lawsuit filed last month. It alleges Thomas tackled a man who raised his middle finger at officers during an incident in September 2017, then Thomas and four others dragged him, injuring his head, left elbow and leg.
The new lawsuit describes Gross’ case as follows:
Gross was driving in the city Oct. 14, 2017, when officers Kophamel and Thomas stopped him around 9:30 p.m., near the corner of Ruby and Fourth streets.
They told him he would be cited for driving without a valid license and running a stop sign and told him to surrender his keys.
Gross objected, saying his wife was at home with their nine children and wouldn’t be able to go to the police station downtown to retrieve his keys.
After Witmer arrived, the officers told Gross he was under arrest. When he asked why, they administered two shocks from a stun gun.
Later, at the city police station, he was told he would be strip searched. When he objected, he was wrestled to the ground and shocked with a stun gun by two unidentified officers.
Gross is being represented by Patrick Geckle, a Philadelphia attorney who specializes in police misconduct cases.
The suit claims Gross’ rights to free speech and due process were violated, as well as his legal protections from unreasonable search and seizure and excessive force.
It accuses the city of failing to rein in the use of excessive force, and of having in place a use-of-force policy that officials knew needed to be revised.
The policy at the time Gross was arrested is no longer in effect. City police implemented its successor, which made substantial changes, in August 2018, 10 months after Gross’ arrest and about a month after a stun gun incident that went viral online and made news internationally.
In that case, city man Sean Williams was shocked from behind as he sat on a curb, where police had ordered him to sit. Police said he was refusing to comply with subsequent directives.
Williams filed a lawsuit alleging excessive force, failure to provide medical care and discrimination. This month, court records show, he agreed to drop the second and third counts; litigation on the first count remains active, with the city seeking to have it dismissed.
According to court records, 11 days after Gross’ arrest, he pleaded guilty before a district judge to disorderly conduct and driving without a license. Charges of obstructing law enforcement and failing to stop were withdrawn.
He was fined $200 dollars and charged $971 in fees related to his arrest. One fee of $153 was dropped; court records do not indicate he has made any payments.