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  •   From Spring Valley to Shaw, a Catalogue of Complaints

        Edwin Gonzalez
    Edwin "Salvatore" Gonzalez says police beat and kicked him while he was dressed as Santa Claus at a charity event. (By Rick Bowmer – The Washington Post)
    By Sari Horwitz
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, November 19, 1998; Page A25

    The District of Columbia has paid an average of $1 million a year in the 1990's to settle more than 300 excessive force lawsuits filed by citizens against the city and its police department, an analysis by The Washington Post shows. All but one of the following cases was either settled by the city – without admitting wrongdoing – or resulted in a judgment in a trial. One case is still pending. Details are drawn from court documents, police records and interviews.

    Minnette Joyner, a police department dispatcher who was five months pregnant, said she was pulled from her house by the hair and beaten by Officer Mark Hodge, who had been arguing with her husband, according to court records. A jury awarded her $37,500 in 1993. Hodge, who had accumulated numerous citizen complaints, was indicted twice on criminal charges and acquitted in both cases, according to police records. Fired by the department in 1996, Hodge appealed through union arbitration and the department reinstated him. Last year, according to police officials, the department appealed to the control board to terminate Hodge. The matter is still pending and Hodge is on administrative leave with pay. In an interview, Hodge said, "I was cleared of any wrongdoing and I'd love to be working."

    Edwin "Salvatore" Gonzalez, a waiter dressed as Santa Claus at a fund-raiser for mentally disabled children, said an officer beat and kicked him after someone complained that he was singing Christmas carols too loudly outside a Woodley Park restaurant. The city paid him a $5,000 settlement last year.

    David Senno, a George Washington University graduate student, said in a lawsuit that he was kicked and beaten with nightsticks by several officers who used racial epithets after he asked why a fellow student was being arrested. Senno said his face was pushed into a wall, according to court papers. The city paid him $6,000 in 1993.

    Victor F. Sewell won both a jury verdict and a city settlement for two separate encounters with police that occurred in different parts of the city. He won a $30,000 jury verdict in 1994 for false arrest and excessive force after being arrested and beaten with a nightstick downtown. In September, the city paid him another $30,000 after he alleged he had been beaten in Northeast during a traffic stop.

    Hyo Whang, the owner of a laundry on South Capitol Street, said he was struck in the face by a D.C. officer, who also pointed her gun at him and threatened to kill him because her uniforms were not clean yet, according to court papers. The officer denied wrongdoing. The city paid Whang $8,000 in 1994.

    Charles E. Schwenck, a California lawyer in Washington on business, alleged in a lawsuit that he was stopped in Georgetown for running yellow lights, then was dragged from his car, handcuffed and forced to spend a night in jail, according to court papers. All charges were dropped, and the city settled for $8,250 in 1994.

    Daniel C. Mason Jr. was paid $60,000 by the city in 1994 after alleging he was beaten and kicked by officers who struck him in the face with flashlights after a chase. In a police report, officers said they stopped Mason because they believed he was driving a stolen car and that Mason received his injuries after he "tripped over the curb, striking his head on the pavement." Mason alleged he also was struck with a blackjack in his cell and was denied medical attention; court records show Mason pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a car and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

    Milton Reid won a $60,000 jury verdict in 1993 after alleging that he was standing at a bus stop early in the morning when officers punched, kicked and beat him. The same month, the same officers had been accused of beating a man with a blackjack and breaking his jaw. The two officers involved were convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon in both cases and subsequently fired.

    Frances Hall, of Columbia Heights, won a $7,500 settlement in 1994 after alleging that she was placed in a choke hold and thrown to the floor when she refused to let plainclothes officers enter her apartment.

    Shirley P. Langevine won $201,500 in a jury verdict the city paid last January. The registered nurse alleged in court filings that she was improperly arrested for disorderly conduct after questioning police when she was stopped while driving on 13th Street NW. The District maintained that officers had done nothing wrong.

    Jeffrey A. McFarland won a $59,000 court judgment in 1993 after alleging that an officer severely beat him on the head with a nightstick during a protest rally.

    Alonzo Grimes and his family were paid $14,500 by the city in 1994 after officers entered his home in Southeast without a warrant and with guns drawn, according to court records. D.C. Superior Court Judge Curtis E. von Kann said that the officers involved had "gotten out of control" and that there had been "considerable police perjury in this court."

    David Wright won a $27,394 jury verdict in 1993 after he alleged officers beat him with their nightsticks and blackjacks.

    Tyrone Frederick was awarded $17,500 by a jury in 1996 after alleging he was beaten with flashlights and police radios by officers called to his house for a domestic dispute.

    Geneva-Veronica Fields, a legal secretary at a downtown law firm, received a $10,000 settlement in 1995 after alleging that officers assaulted her, according to court documents. Fields was in a cab on her way to work when the driver made an illegal turn and was stopped. When she tried to call her office, Fields alleged, officers grabbed her and arrested her.

    Valerie Davis was paid $43,000 in 1995 after alleging officers beat her and broke her arm after arresting her in a suspected drug transaction. All charges against her were dropped.

    DeWayne Wright and his family stopped to buy ice cream from a vendor on First Street NW this year. The family, from Landover, alleged in court papers that an officer approached Wright for parking illegally and, during an argument, slammed Wright through a car rear window, spraying glass over his child. Wright was arrested, but charges were later dropped. The suit is pending.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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