The Village of Hempstead will pay $4.5 million to a man who alleged his colon was ruptured during a rough and baseless 2015 arrest by village police officers, one of whom later allegedly lied under oath about the incident.
The village board voted 5-0 last week to issue bonds to pay the settlement in the lawsuit, which Abel Antonio Alvarenga Vasquez brought against Hempstead and Hempstead police officers in May 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
In his suit, Vasquez, 41, of Far Rockaway, alleged numerous constitutional and civil rights violations by village police officers, including excessive use of force, false arrest and malicious prosecution.
Vasquez’s attorneys, Mineola-based Anthony M. Grandinette and Huntington-based John A. Mullan, praised the settlement, saying in a joint statement it “reflects the egregious actions of the Hempstead Village Police Officers” involved in the arrest.
“During the course of the civil litigation, the police misconduct became blatantly clear, and the Inc. Village of Hempstead correctly decided to justly compensate Mr. Vasquez for the physical, monetary and outrageous constitutional harms he suffered,” the statement read.
Village Attorney Cherice Vanderhall called the settlement "fair," but noted "there was no determination of fault."
The incident took place outside a Hempstead nightclub in March 2015, according to a complaint filed in the suit.
Vasquez and a friend were in the club, where the friend was assaulted, according to the complaint. Village police officers arrived and discussed the incident with club bouncers. Vasquez, who was intoxicated, filmed the exchange on his cellphone. A bouncer sought to take Vasquez’s phone, but Vasquez ran away and shouted an expletive behind him, the complaint reads.
The officers pursued Vasquez, and one of them, William Falk, allegedly slammed Vasquez into a parked car, rupturing his colon.
Falk and another officer, Adam Wade, then pressed Vasquez, who was moaning in pain, against the car, one officer asking repeatedly “How does that feel?” Vasquez was unarmed and not resisting, according to the complaint.
The officers arrested him. Vasquez repeatedly asked to go to a hospital. The officers did not take him to a hospital, but charged him with disorderly conduct, according to the complaint.
After being released, Vasquez went to a local hospital and ultimately underwent four surgeries to repair a “serious bowel injury,” the complaint reads. The incident has left him “permanently disfigured.”
Vasquez was tried for disorderly conduct in Hempstead Village court. In the trial, Vasquez’s lawyers allege Falk “lied under oath” by testifying that Vasquez was not thrown against a car and had not shown signs of pain during the arrest. Video footage submitted as evidence in the trial contradicted that account, the complaint alleged, and the charge against Vasquez was dismissed.
Falk, who is no longer a village police officer, and Wade did not respond to requests for comment. Vanderhall said the village investigated the incident, but did not punish Falk or Wade for their conduct in Vasquez’s arrest and prosecution.