A Wyandanch man has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Suffolk County, its police department and several officers, alleging his rights were violated during an arrest last summer in which he claims officers used “excessive force” and “physically ripped” his prosthetic leg from his body during the altercation.
The federal lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of New York by Waverly Lucas, 48, says he was falsely arrested, assaulted and put under a “chokehold” by officers on Aug. 18, 2021. It names the Suffolk County Police Department, the county, officers Michael Casey and Michael Renna and eight other unnamed officers.
A spokeswoman for Suffolk police, speaking for the officers and the department, said the department “does not comment on pending litigation.” County and district attorney representatives did not return a request for comment.
An internal affairs investigation was conducted in connection with the incident, but the spokeswoman would not comment on its outcome. Charges againist Lucas were later dismissed.
The aim of the lawsuit, said Lucas' attorney, Heather Palmore of Melville, “is to make sure that people can walk and go about their days without being bullied, harassed, racially profiled because of the color of [their] skin.”
Lucas is Black.
According to the lawsuit, Lucas was parked at a Gulf gas station in Wyandanch when he was stopped by Casey and Renna, who asked for his identification. Lucas objected to their request and “demanded to know why his identification was needed.”
The suit states that Casey, Renna and unnamed officers “presented false information to the prosecutor by alleging plaintiff committed various acts, which they were aware he had not committed.”
The officers then “physically seized” Lucas before putting him in a chokehold, which restricted his breathing, the lawsuit said.
“I thought I was going to die,” Lucas told Newsday on Tuesday. “When he put me in a chokehold, I couldn’t breathe, and I went out and I just thought I was going to die … I feared for my life.”
After handcuffing Lucas and putting him in their patrol vehicle, the officers had trouble getting his prosthetic leg in the car, so they “ripped Plaintiff’s prosthetic leg from his body in order to fit him into the back of the patrol car,” the suit said. The action damaged his prosthesis, Palmore noted, which was later returned.
Lucas was taken to the First Precinct in West Babylon, given a desk appearance ticket and forced to hop on one leg to get home, the papers say. Later, he went by ambulance to a hospital for treatment, the suit says.
“I’m not like everybody,” Lucas said. “I have to put my leg on. I have to hop to the bathroom, so to go through what I went through, the emotional pain is outstanding.”
He also suffered an orbital fracture and injuries to his head, neck, chest and wrists, the suit said.
The complaint states that other unnamed officers seized and searched Lucas’ car without a warrant. Officers found “a controlled substance” in the vehicle, and he was criminally charged.
Police found Oxycodone pills, which Lucas had a prescription for to relieve pain related to his lost leg, Palmore said. Lucas was charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Those charges were dismissed on June 11, the suit states.