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Freeport police sued for $10M over Taser hitting man's eye during arrest

The man underwent two surgeries but his eye could not be saved, the lawsuit alleges.

Devon Williams alleges excessive force in a lawsuit

Devon Williams alleges excessive force in a lawsuit that names Freeport Village, the Freeport police department and individual police officers as defendants. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

An Inwood man has sued the Freeport Village Police Department for $10 million over allegations that officers, while arresting him, fired a Taser stun gun that hit his eye, causing partial blindness.

The injury required Devon Williams, 23, to undergo two operations, but efforts to save his left eye were  unsuccessful, according to the Jan. 7 complaint and Williams' attorney Andrew Laufer of Manhattan. 

Williams was "publicly humiliated, intimidated, terrorized, severely injured, and suffered severe mental anguish" from being shocked with the Taser gun, which violated his right to due process, according to the complaint.

Freeport Police Chief Miguel Bermudez directed questions about the lawsuit to village attorney Howard Colton.

"The Village of Freeport does not comment on pending litigation," Colton said. Freeport Village police officers undergo twice-annual use of force training, including Taser training, according to the department's 2017 annual report.

Williams' lawsuit, which names Freeport Village, the Freeport police department and individual police officers as defendants, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney's fees.

Laufer said the officers' use of force against Williams was excessive and unnecessary.

"There was no reason for them to deploy the Taser against my client for any reason," Laufer said. "He was no threat to anyone," Laufer said.

Williams is incarcerated and would not comment on the case, Laufer said.

Police on May 16 pulled over a car in which Williams was a passenger on Terrace Avenue in Freeport "for an unknown reason," and Williams ran from the scene, according to the complaint.

He encountered another police car a few blocks away and stopped. Police told Williams to put his hands up and turn around, according to the complaint.

Williams complied, but as he turned, an officer shocked Williams with the Taser, according to the complaint. 

"One of the Taser prongs entered [Williams'] left eye penetrating the orb," the complaint reads. "The Taser then discharged its electricity into the eye and body of Mr. Williams."

Laufer said officers then arrested Williams and removed the Taser prong themselves before medical personnel arrived, a move he called "completely improper and dangerous." Williams was taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery.

He was arraigned in his hospital bed, Laufer said. Nassau County police charged him with one count of second-degree robbery, two counts of tampering with physical evidence and one count of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and other charges, online court records show. 

Christopher Graziano, Williams' Mineola-based attorney in the criminal case, said police alleged Williams and a co-defendant had stolen shoes, money and other objects shortly before Williams was shocked. Williams also allegedly had thrown out marijuana and a knife after police stopped the car, Graziano said. 

Williams pleaded guilty in October and was sentenced to two years in jail, Graziano said.

Williams underwent a second surgery months later to remove the remnants of his eye, and is awaiting a third surgery to have a prosthetic eye implanted, Laufer said.

In a separate incident, Nassau Police arrested Williams in 2016. He was charged with first-degree robbery, second-degree robbery, third-degree robbery, second-degree assault and third-degree assault, court records show. He pleaded guilty and served two years in prison before being released on parole in January 2018, Laufer said.

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