Lancaster city has settled a federal lawsuit with a Lancaster Township man who accused city police of using excessive force by shocking him with a stun gun and manhandling him after a traffic stop.
Terms weren’t specified in the settlement order, dated Jan. 7. However, Patrick Hopkins, director of city administrative services, said the case settled for $10,000.
In his suit, Kenneth D. Gross claimed police stopped him Oct. 14, 2017, for driving without a 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 get his keys.
After another officer arrived, police told Gross he was under arrest and they shocked him with a stun gun when he asked why.
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.
The suit identified three officers as defendants by name: Joel Thomas, Christopher Kophamel and Isaac Witmer. Ten other officers were listed as “John Does” and the city was named a defendant.
Court documents indicate Thomas, Kophamel and Witmer were dismissed as defendants Dec. 18.
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 Charges of obstructing law enforcement and failing to stop were withdrawn.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 costs.
Other recent suits
At least three other suits claiming excessive force by police are pending against the city.
The latest was filed Dec. 5 in federal court by Gerardo Rosario, of Ephrata.
On Feb. 4, 2018, an unidentified person shot Rosario four times — in right arm, left wrist and chest — while he sat in his car in the 400 block of Pershing Avenue. No one has been charged.
Rosario claims, despite having been shot, unknown police officers threw him to the ground.
Then, the next day, after surgery, Rosario was taken to the police station where, his lawsuit said, Officer Toby Hickey demanded he take off his clothes, forcefully removed bandages, and punched and kicked him before handcuffing him naked and putting him in a cell.
The suit names Hickey, the city and two unknown officers as defendants. Rosario is seeking more than $150,000.
Hopkins declined to comment on Rosario’s suit, citing the city’s policy on pending litigation.
In another suit, scheduled for trial Feb. 11 in federal court, Sean D. Williams, of Lancaster, was shocked by a stun gun June 28, 2018, as he sat on a curb.
Police said Williams was refusing to comply with directives.
Williams claims police used excessive force, failed to provide medical care and discriminated against him based on race. In December, 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.
And in a third suit, former Lancaster resident John White sued five city police officers in September 2019, claiming they used excessive force during a 2017 arrest after he gave an officer the middle finger while walking by police, who were handling a disturbance.
In December, a federal judge ordered that a settlement conference be scheduled. If a settlement can’t be reached, an Oct. 19 trial is scheduled.