Five Northern Virginians have filed a $2.75 million lawsuit against Fairfax County and its police department, alleging that an off-duty county officer choked or beat some of them with handcuffs while making five unlawful arrests.
The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, asks $550,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for each of the five plaintiffs involved in a February 1980 incident outside a 24-hour convenince store near Hummer Road and Rte. 236.
The suit named Cpl. Colin Morgan of the Fairfax Police Department as the officer who made the arrests.
County officials yesterday refused to comment on the allegations. "We do not comment on matters of pending litigation," said Fairfax police spokesman Warren Carmichael.
According to Gwendolyn Jo Carlberg, the attorney representing the five, Linda and Michael Oliver of Woodburn Village Drive in Annandale were leaving the store on a Sunday night in a van when they backed into an already damaged vehicle.
Carlberg said the couple saw no further damage and prepared to drive away when they were blocked by a car carrying Cpl. Morgan and another off-duty officer.
According to Carlberg, a struggle ensued after three friends of the Olivers, Steven, Mark and Brenda Burney, all of Fairfax, stopped to investigate. The suit alleges that Morgan struck Mark Burney and Michael Oliver on the head with handcuffs and choked Linda Oliver.
Steven Burney was charged with obstructing justice, and the other four plaintiffs were initially charged with assault and battery, Carlberg said. The charge against Brenda Burney was later dropped, according to Carlberg. Steven and Mark Burney were found guilty. The Olivers were also found guilty, but the verdict was reversed on appeal.
Morgan was later cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident in an internal investigation by Fairfax police, Carmichael said.
"My clients took a polygraph [lie detector test] for that and they passed it," Carlberg said yesterday. "But when Morgan took it, the polygraph test came out 'inconclusive.'"