Joined by his attorneys and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Pittsburgh teacher Dennis Henderson announced he would file a lawsuit against Pittsburgh police officer Jonathan Gromek for his wrongful arrest of Henderson last summer.
“I want to show my students that, regardless of your neighborhood, ethnicity, attire, age, or socioeconomic status, no one should be harassed, arrested and placed into the criminal justice system by a police officer who operates under a code of profiling, provoking and arresting individuals without just cause,” Henderson said.
On June 26, Henderson and New Pittsburgh Courier photographer Rossano Paul Stewart were talking by Henderson’s car after leaving a meeting at Homewood’s Community Empowerment Association when Gromek sped by nearly striking them.
When they yelled at him about his driving, he turned around arrested and handcuffed them both.
Stewart was released after speaking with an officer who recognized him, but Henderson was jailed for about 12 hours and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala withdrew the charges two weeks later.
Last month, the bureau’s own internal Office of Municipal Investigation unit found Gromek violated of multiple department policies. Henderson announced the lawsuit at a Nov. 19 press conference at the law offices of Healey & Hornack, which along with attorney James Love and ACLU attorneys Sara Rose and Witold Walczak, is representing Henderson
“The withdrawal of the criminal charges and findings by OMI demonstrate that Officer Gromek abused his power,” said Glen Downey, of Healey & Hornack. “People should be able to criticize police behavior and record their conduct without fear of arrest.”
The federal Civil Rights complaint states that Henderson’s arrest violated his First Amendment right to record the encounter and to be free from retaliation for expressing his concerns about the officer’s behavior, and his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure of his person, excessive force, false arrest, and false imprisonment.
The suit also alleges that Henderson’s treatment was motivated by his race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Henderson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs and attorney’s fees.
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