The Milwaukee Common Council this week approved paying $110,000 to settle a federal court lawsuit alleging police officers illegally searched a man's home, threw him to the ground and beat him hard enough to break his eye socket.
City Attorney Grant Langley said in a letter to the council that settling the case was "deemed expeditious."
The suit, filed less than six months ago and pending before U.S. Senior District Judge Charles N. Clevert, was settled with remarkable speed, considering it involved federal court litigation. The suit alleged excessive force, false arrest and detention, and unlawful entry.
One of the police officer defendants in the case, Daniel J. Vidmar, was dismissed from the Milwaukee Police Department in 2014 for falsifying documents so he could take a bicycle home from police inventory. The other two officers named as defendants were Raynaldo Roman, Jr. and Joseph Zawikowski.
Mason alleged he was grilling at his home on May 29, 2012 when officers from a bicycle patrol came to the door looking for a person who had just exited a car nearby. The person was Mason's son, who entered the house, according to the complaint in the lawsuit.
When Mason went outside to check on the grill, he found Roman standing by his door. The officer asked who had just run inside.
Mason "asked what he meant, and said that no one had run inside his house," the complaint said.
(Officer) Vidmar told him to "shut the f--- up."
Mason's son came out of the house and Roman handcuffed him, took him into custody. and turned him over to a fourth officer, who led him away. Mason followed, asking what his son had done to be arrested, but returned to the house when he heard his grandchildren screaming, the complaint said. He found the three defendants inside his house, which they entered without permission before conducting a warrantless search.
Mason told the three officers to leave his house. Vidmar told him to "shut the f--- up." After Mason again told the officers to leave, Vidmar grabbed Mason's left wrist and slammed him into a wall. Vidmar and Roman took Mason to the ground and flipped him on his back.
Vidmar, "still pinning (Mason) to the ground on his back, then pulled a small black object from his belt, and forcibly struck (Mason) on or about the left eye with it several times, fracturing (Mason's) left orbital rim," the complaint said. Roman and Zawikowski did not intervene to help or protect Mason, the complaint said.
Mason was arrested and taken to the police station, where he sat for several hours before being taken to a hospital for medical attention. No charges were filed against him, the complaint said.
(Full disclosure: The suit was filed by the Strang Bradley and Carlson, Blau & Clemens law firms. Dean Strang, a principal in Strang Bradley, is on the WJI board. He was not in any way involved in the preparation of this story.)
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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