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Man files $15M suit over shot fired during traffic stop

Al Kirby, 49, of Shirley, left, with attorney

Al Kirby, 49, of Shirley, left, with attorney Frederick Brewington at Brewington's law office in Hempstead on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. Kirby, who said a police officer shot at him during a Jan. 30 traffic stop near his home, has filed a federal suit against Suffolk County and police for at least $15 million. Credit: Steve Pfost

A Shirley man who said an officer shot at him during a traffic stop has filed a federal suit against Suffolk County and police for at least $15 million, saying he now suffers post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident.

Al Kirby, 49, described it as a case of “driving while black” and excessive use of force when he was stopped by Suffolk police Officer Donald Santamaria on Jan. 30, according to the suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Kirby said he slowly rolled through a stop sign just before 2 a.m. on Main Street and River Road, 100 feet from his home, when he saw a cruiser turn on its lights. He immediately pulled over, put his keys on the dashboard and kept his hands on top of the steering wheel, said Kirby, who served 12 years in the Marines, including combat in Desert Storm.

The officer hadn’t even walked up, Kirby said, when “he fired a round at me.”

“I was scared. I threw both my hands out the window and I yelled out three times ‘You don’t have to do this,’ ” he said.

The bullet hit the driver’s side door of his Cadillac Escalade, a sport utility vehicle, and fragmented, Kirby said. The officer then ordered him to walk backward toward his voice, kneel and put his hands behind his head, he said, not an easy feat because he has several service-related injuries.

His attorney wants the police department to conduct a “full investigation” into why the officer fired the bullet.

“There was no basis for him to have a gun drawn,” said attorney Frederick K. Brewington, of Hempstead. “They knew they were stopping a black guy they shouldn’t have been stopping.”

County spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter and police department spokesman Justin Meyers said they could not comment on pending litigation.

Santamaria and other responding officers are named as defendants in the suit. Santamaria declined to comment Saturday.

Kirby said police later ticketed him for driving 70 mph in a 40-mph zone, failing to stop at a stop sign, and failing to signal before a turn. He also was charged with driving while intoxicated. Brewington said police also believed drugs were hidden in his vehicle and ripped up the interior but found nothing.

Brewington said all the charges were dropped in exchange for Kirby’s guilty plea on driving while ability impaired. Kirby, who had been drinking at a bar, was ordered to pay a fine and take a safe driving course, his attorney said.

The ex-Marine said he now goes to therapy because he has nightmares, jumps at loud sounds, avoids driving and hardly ever goes out at night.

“I felt as though something was taken away from me that day,” Kirby said. “Even though I’ve been through combat and everything, to be shot at by somebody you’re supposed to trust kind of takes away a little bit of my trust.”

With Stefanie Dazio

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