Photo: Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media
BRIDGEPORT — A sixth federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against city police regarding a 2017 incident in which nearly a dozen police officers were cited for using excessive force and lying about it.
The incident at a birthday party on Colorado Avenue has already cost the city nearly $400,000 in settlements for four previous lawsuits.
Carmelo Mendez, who is seen on video apparently being hit and kicked by officers while he was handcuffed, received a settlement of $342,500. Others receiving settlements included Mendez’s sister, Wanda Mendez, and partygoer Jose Alvarado.
Attorney Robert Berke represented all the plaintiffs. He declined comment on the newest lawsuit but said it will probably be the last he files in the case.
In the newest lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, 25-year-old Ramon Davila claims he was recording video of the interaction between partygoers and police when a man he identified as Officer Joseph Cruz knocked him to the ground.
“Defendant Cruz without justification utilized excessive force when he performed a leg sweep which thrust Mr. Davila violently to the ground,” the lawsuit states. “The plaintiff was not interfering with the officers, had not attempted to flee and had not assaulted or attempted to assault an officer.”
The suit seeks unspecified money damages for physical and emotional injuries suffered in the incident.
City officials did not immediately respond to emails for comment. The city is contractually required to represent officers sued for their actions while on duty.
The lawsuit continues that Officer Cruz lied in his sworn police report of the incident.
Cruz was later cited by the city’s Office of Internal Affairs for using excessive force in the incident. He is awaiting a disciplinary hearing.
Davila was arrested by Cruz and Officer Michael Mazzacco, also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Davila was charged with interfering with police, carrying a dangerous weapon and breach of peace. The charges are still pending in Superior Court.
The suit claims Mazzacco and Officer Daniel Faroni, “ in observing the false arrest of the plaintiff, knew or should have known that a constitutional violation was being committed by their fellow officer.”
On Oct. 21, 2017, Wanda Mendez was hosting a pre-Halloween party at her Colorado Avenue home when police showed up in answer to a noise complaint. Forty-six cops ended up descending on the home.
Ten officers were later found to have been untruthful about what happened that night, according to the city’s Office of Internal Affairs report. The investigation also found that six officers had used excessive force.