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Patchogue nightclub owner accuses Suffolk Police Department of excessive force in lawsuit

Pictured here is the Saturday Night Dance Party

Pictured here is the Saturday Night Dance Party with Smooth City, a DJ group, at The Emporium in Patchogue. Photo Credit: The Emporium

A Patchogue nightclub owner's lawsuit against the Suffolk Police Department claims it illegally closed his business after security guards kicked out the sons of a Fifth Precinct officer for starting a brawl.

Timothy Lorito, owner of The Emporium on Railroad Avenue, filed the federal civil rights lawsuit Dec. 23 alleging Suffolk police violated his Fourth and 14th amendment rights through assault, battery, excessive force and false arrest.

Lorito named Suffolk Police Officer Gregg Drzal, the father of three men kicked out during the Dec. 23, 2013, altercation, as well as a Fifth Precinct lieutenant, a sergeant and unidentified members of the department. In the lawsuit, Lorito wants unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

The Suffolk County Police Department would not comment.

Drzal's sons started a fight in the nightclub about 1:45 a.m. before security officers kicked them out, the suit states. One of Drzal's sons told club security they had messed with the wrong people before being kicked out, the suit states.

Lorito claims in the suit that he overheard one of the sons on the phone with his father and that the son "was going to have the venue shut down."

Lorito's attorney, Robert J. Valli Jr. of Garden City, said the nightclub owner "wants everyone to understand that he's not anti-police officer. As a nightclub owner you rely on the police to come to help you. It makes him weary. . . . [Drzal] was wrong. It's certainly not the type of behavior that we want from law enforcement."

Minutes after his sons were kicked out, Drzal arrived in plain clothes and identified himself as a police officer before demanding that security let him into the club, according to the lawsuit.

When Drzal saw Lorito near the nightclub entrance, he screamed expletives at him and grabbed him by the shirt and neck, then wrapped two fingers around the club owner's throat, choking him, according to the court filing.

The suit alleges Lorito "attempted to calm Officer Drzal down repeatedly to no avail."

Drzal "attacked Plaintiff [Lorito], punching him in the left eye," according to the lawsuit. Drzal then "grabbed a metal barricade . . . striking Plaintiff in the head and face," according to the court papers. Lorito escaped and called 911 requesting officers from other than the Fifth Precinct, the suit states. Drzal told Lorito he "was shutting the venue down," and soon after a sergeant and a lieutenant arrived from the Fifth Precinct and closed the club, the suit says.

Lorito said in the suit he saw at least 16 officers and emergency personnel at the scene.

The sergeant threatened Lorito and admonished him not to challenge the Suffolk County Police Department, the documents stated. The officers asked one of Drzal's sons to identify those in the fight. The son pointed to the club's manager, who was then arrested, according to the suit.

When Lorito told officers he taped the altercation, including Drzal assaulting him, officers released the manager, according to the court documents.

The sergeant apologized and Lorito gave a statement, the court filings state.

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