A disabled Black man has filed a $50 million lawsuit against police officers who he claims used excessive force after wrongfully accusing him of a crime he did not commit.
“I thought I was going to die in this situation,” said 48-year-old amputee Waverly Lucas, who uses a prosthetic leg.
“The only reason they stopped him was because of his skin color,” said Heather Palmore, chief trial counsel for the Napoli Shkolnik law firm and Lucas’ attorney.
It’s been a year since Lucas of Long Island, New York was arrested by Suffolk County police while attempting to visit a convenience store near his home.
“The gas station I was going to was around the corner from my childhood home, so you might just go there to get a soda or something to drink,” Lucas explained.
Lucas claims that on August 18, 2021, he pulled up to a Gulf gas station in the Long Island town of Wyandach, New York, and as he was getting out of his car to go inside, he was putting on his prosthetic leg when Suffolk County police officers Michael Casey and Michael Renna approached him, asking for his identification and accusing him of urinating in public.
“There’s no evidence of that; what’s clear is that he stopped his vehicle and attempted to walk into the convenience store, and there’s nothing else,” Palmore said.
Lucas started filming the police encounter on Facebook Live, which shows what happened next, when the officers became physically aggressive with him. According to the lawsuit filed over the incident, an officer put Lucas in a chokehold before grabbing and wrenching his arms. Lucas was shoved towards the police car and placed in the back seat after his arms were pulled to be handcuffed.
“I thought I was going to die in this situation because I’m being choked out,” Lucas explained. “I don’t know if anyone’s ever been choked out, but you go to sleep, and I just thought I was going to die and there was nothing I could do.”
The officers are also accused of pulling on Lucas’ prosthetic leg and throwing it into the trunk of the police car, leaving the amputated Lucas in excruciating pain, according to the lawsuit.
“It was excruciating pain, because when someone is trying to bend something connected to your body and your kneecap is popping out at the same time, you’re not thinking about anything but the pain that you’re going through, and that’s all I can remember thinking at the time,” Lucas said.
When Lucas was arrested, he was charged with obstruction, resisting arrest, and possession of his doctor-prescribed Oxycodone pain medication. Those charges were eventually dropped.
“Maybe an hour or so before all of this happened, so it was a brand-new prescription, it was dated and logged, and every time you get a narcotic, it’s a federal record,” Lucas explained.
Lucas was taken to a hospital after being released from jail, where he did not receive treatment — at least not at first, according to his attorney.
“He wasn’t treated at the hospital because he was in custody at the time,” Palmore explained. “And the way he was treated at the hospital was not what you would expect.”
According to Palmore, Lucas returned to jail to be processed and booked. When Lucas was finally released from the jail, he was taken back to the hospital by ambulance, but without his prosthetic leg, which had been taken by police, according to the lawsuit, Lucas was forced to walk out of the police station on one leg.
“When he returned to the hospital, he was made to crawl out of the precinct, crawl out of the precinct, and was removed back to the same hospital and had to stay overnight,” Palmore explained.
With a slew of allegations leveled against Suffolk County police, Atlanta Black Star sought a response from the department. The department had no comment, according to a spokeswoman.
“They performed an illegal search of his vehicle after he was already in custody, took the keys out of his hand, and entered his vehicle even though he wasn’t there,” Palmore explained.
On August 8, Lucas filed a $50 million excessive force lawsuit against the police. He and his attorney want policy to change so that the department’s pattern of targeting people of color stops.
Palmore stated, “Policy change, disciplinary action against the officers.” “This is a microcosm of what happens every day in communities of color here,” she went on.