A man from Industry Borough has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Beaver Borough, the Beaver Police Chief, and several of its officers, alleging excessive force was used against him during a traffic stop in August of 2016, and alleging false charges were then filed against him in an apparent attempt to justify the “brutality” of what occurred.
James Edward Cicco filed a civil complaint in federal district court last week against Beaver Patrolmen Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims and Bo Blinn, Chief Daniel Madgar, and the Borough of Beaver. Cicco lists causes of action including negligence, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, and civil rights violations.
As part of his litigation, Cicco details an alleged history of excessive force by Officer Wijnen-Reims dating back years that he asserts the Beaver Police Department has failed to address.
The Beaver Countian has reported extensively about the encounter between James Cicco and Beaver Police, publishing over 30 articles related to Cicco’s arrest and subsequent judicial proceedings in the case — including the publishing of a police dash-cam video that captured the entire incident which was released to the public pursuant to a court order (a complete archive of the Beaver Countian’s news coverage is available here).
Members of the Beaver Borough Police Department have made no public comments about the incident outside of testimony in court proceedings.
James Cicco’s Allegations Against Beaver Police
Attorneys Kenneth Fawcett and Chad Bowers (Bowers & Fawcett LLC) outlined James Cicco’s case against Beaver Police in his federal complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania:
“On August 18, 2016, at approximately 10:00 p.m., James E. Cicco, was operating his 1997 Ford Explorer SUV westwardly on Route 68 in the Borough of Beaver. Defendants, Blinn and Wijnen-Reims, began to follow Plaintiff on Route 68 in the Borough of Beaver. Defendants, Blinn and Wijnen-Reims, were operating separate Beaver Police vehicles.
“Defendants, Blinn and Wijnen-Reims, followed Plaintiff into Industry Borough without attempting to pull the Plaintiff over and without activating lights or sirens. Defendant Blinn was traveling so close to Plaintiff that he created a dangerous and hazardous condition jeopardizing the safety of Cicco and Blinn. Defendant Blinn activated his emergency lights while directly behind Plaintiff in Industry Borough to respond to a disturbance call in Midland Borough. Plaintiff pulled off to the side of the road and Defendant Blinn passed the Plaintiff.
“Defendant Wijnen-Reims continued to follow the Plaintiff.
“At that time, Defendant Wijnen-Reims, without probable cause, decided to perform a traffic stop. Plaintiff exercised his right to seek a safe location to pull over and drove a short distance to his home where he stopped. Defendant Wijnen-Reims exited his vehicle and yanked open the Plaintiff’s driver’s side door grabbing the Plaintiff. Defendant Wijnen-Reims grabbed and pulled Plaintiff in an attempt to drag the Plaintiff from the car. Defendant Wijnen-Reims was unable to drag the Plaintiff from the car as the Plaintiff was entangled in his seat belt.
“Defendant Wijnen-Reims himself pulled the seat belt loose, let go of the Plaintiff and returned to his unit where he obtained Beaver K-9 Czar.
“As soon as Defendant Wijnen-Reims let go of the Plaintiff and returned to his patrol vehicle, Plaintiff, free from his seat belt, immediately turned with both hands extended up surrendering to the Defendant. Despite Plaintiff’s obvious sign of surrender, Defendant Wijnen-Reims released his K-9, Czar, and returned to the Plaintiff’s car, where Plaintiff retreated by closing the door to protect himself from the approaching K-9.
“With deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs constitutional protections, Defendant Wijnen-Reims opened the car door and deployed the K-9 which attacked Plaintiff at the Defendant’s command. Plaintiff was seriously injured by the K-9 in this attack.
“The K-9 and Defendant Wijnen-Reims jointly pulled the Plaintiff from the car and onto the ground where Wijnen-Reims allowed the K-9 to maul the Plaintiff while Wijnen-Reims held onto Plaintiff’s arm. Wijnen-Reims then had to physically remove the K-9 from engagement with the Plaintiff when the K-9 refused to obey commands to release.
“After physically removing the K-9 from engagement with Plaintiff, the Defendant, Wijnen-Reims, secured the Plaintiff with handcuffs after driving his knee into Plaintiff’s back as he lay face down on the ground.
“At this time, K-9 Czar re-engaged and began to attack the Plaintiff a second time inflicting serious injuries upon the Plaintiff. Defendant, Wijnen-Reims, was again unable to control his K-9 and was required to forcibly remove the K-9 from the Plaintiff.
“Defendant, Blinn, returned to the scene to assist Defendant, Wijnen- Reims, and helped to pick the Plaintiff up off the ground. Upon getting the Plaintiff to a standing position Defendant, Blinn, slammed the Plaintiff’s head and upper body off the hood of the Plaintiff’s vehicle causing additional personal injuries.
“In an apparent effort to justify his acts of brutality and excess force, Defendant Wijnen-Reims with the consent and support of the co-defendants, filed a criminal complaint with false and inaccurate allegations totaling 59 separate counts. Included were one count of aggravated assault, fifty counts of possession of a controlled substance, one count of resisting arrest, one count of fleeing or eluding, two counts of driving under the influence, one count of driving while operating privilege is suspended, one count of careless driving, one count of taunting a police animal and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
“At the Preliminary Hearing the aggravated assault count and all fifty (50) counts for possession of a controlled substance were dismissed. One count of driving under the influence was withdrawn leaving only seven counts held for Court. A second Complaint was filed with one count of possessions of a controlled substance after the Preliminary Hearing.
“Included in the Complaint was charge of taunting a police animal, alleging that Plaintiff kicked at K-9 Czar, causing the dog to engage. In response to Plaintiff’s motion for Habeas Corpus, and hearing at which the video of the entire stop was introduced, the Honorable Dale Fouse of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County found that even if it is assumed that the Plaintiff made contact with the K-9, it was in direct response to Defendant Wijnen-Reims driving his knee into Plaintiff’s back and thus no evidence of the required mens rea. Therefore, the count was dismissed.
“Similarly Defendant Wijnen-Reims in an apparent attempt to justify the excessive use of force, charged Plaintiff with resisting arrest. Again, Judge Fouse found, after reviewing the video of the incident, that there was no evidence of Plaintiff resisting arrest and dismissed the charge. Likewise, Defendant Wijnen-Reims charged Plaintiff with driving under the influence. Again judge Fouse, finding the Commonwealth’s evidence insufficient to support a prima facie case dismissed the charge.
“Defendant Wijnen-Reims, in an apparent attempt to justify his stop of the Plaintiff, charged Plaintiff with careless driving. At trial, the Honorable Harry Knafelc of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County found the Plaintiff not guilty of careless driving.
“In an apparent attempt to obstruct justice, Defendants during discovery in the underlying criminal case provided Plaintiff with the dashboard camera footage without audio. Defendant Wijnen-Reims as well as Corporal Kenneth McCoy of the Beaver Police Department testified under oath that there was no audio contained on the dashboard video. Only after the criminal trial concluded and an unedited copy of the video was released to the public pursuant to a right-to-know request, was it discovered that there was in fact audio that was withheld from Plaintiff.
“Despite all of the foregoing, there is no evidence that Defendant Wijnen-Reims has ever been disciplined by the Borough of Beaver, its police department, or Defendant Daniel Madgar, Chief of Police.
“Based upon the foregoing, there existed in the Borough of Beaver, a custom, practice and/or policy of deliberate indifference to instances of vicious and unprovoked attacks upon, unreasonable treatment of, and the use of excessive force upon members of the community and criminal/civil defendants by Defendant Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims and Bo Blinn. This settled custom, practice and/or policy was established and maintained by the Borough of Beaver, including its Council, Mayor, Chief of Police, Daniel Madgar, and Police Department through its/their knowing acquiescence and tolerance of such activities and behavior and failure to act to prevent the same.
“This custom, practice and/or policy existed for a significant time prior to the attack upon the plaintiff. The customs, practices and/or policies of the Borough of Beaver and its Police Department consisted of the following:
(a) Deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of the citizens of the Borough of Beaver, the Borough of Industry, and the County of Beaver;
(b) Deliberate indifference to the need to protect the citizens of the Borough of Beaver, the Borough of Industry, and the County of Beaver from attacks by Defendants, Wijnen-Reims and Blinn;
(c) Deliberate indifference to the obvious need for training and supervision of Defendant Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims, especially in the face of repeated complaints, and lawsuits alleging police brutality and use of excessive force;
(d) Failing to properly investigate the complaints by citizens about the activities of Wijnen-Reims on all dates in question;
(e) Failing to properly prevent attacks and the use of excessive force by Defendants, Wijnen-Reims and Blinn, upon people they were investigating by removing them from the police force;
(f) Failing to properly supervise Defendants, Wijnen-Reims and Blinn when they were making arrests or investigating potential criminal activity;
(g) Failure to terminate Defendant Wijnen-Reims after learning of his vicious and violent tendencies and repeated use of excessive force;
(h) Failure to terminate Defendant Wijnen-Reims after 3 separate federal civil rights lawsuits were filed against Defendant, Wijnen-Reims and Defendant, Borough of Beaver alleging violation of citizens’ federal civil rights.
(i) In that Defendant, the Borough of Beaver failed to properly train, educate and instruct the members of its police department on the proper procedures for determining the appropriate use of force;
(j) In failing to adopt and enforce an adequate use of force policy;
(k) In failing to properly, train, educate, and instruct the members of its police department and Defendant, Wijnen Reims in the proper use of its K-9;
(I) In failing to adopt and enforce an adequate policy on the use of K-9’s;
(m) In failing to properly train its K-9 Czar;
(n) In failing to take its K-9 Czar out of service when it was known that the K-9 was unsuitable for police work;
“The prior filed federal civil rights lawsuits are further evidence of Beaver Borough’s knowledge of Wijnen-Reims’ violent propensities and deliberate indifference to the same. Beaver Borough continued to employ Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims despite knowledge of the information set forth herein.
“This conduct by Wijnen-Reims and Blinn, and the failure of Defendants, Borough of Beaver and Madgar, to prevent the same, is outrageous and shocks one’s conscience. At all material times, the members of the Beaver Borough Council, Borough Manager, the Mayor of Beaver, Defendant Wijnen-Reims and Defendant Blinn acted under color of state law.”
An Alleged History Of Excessive Force
As part of his lawsuit against the Beaver Borough Police Department, attorneys for James Cicco outlined a series of alleged incidents of excessive force by Officer Wijnen-Reims dating back years. The following summaries are taken from pages 4 to 14 of Cicco’s federal complaint:
— “On December 25, 2001, Richard St. Esprit was to meet his ex-wife Stacey Coakley at the New Brighton Police Department to exchange custody of their son. Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims, Coakley’s husband, was also present. At that exchange, Officer Wijnen-Reims, without provocation, attacked St. Esprit pulling a sweater over St. Esprit’s head and assaulting him. As the result of this incident, St. Esprit was knocked unconscious. This incident was reported to and made known to the Beaver Borough Police Chief and Borough Council.”
— “In March 2002, James K. Hooker Sr. was employed as the Brighton Township Road Department Foreman. On March 22, 2002, James K. Hooker, as the result of inclement weather, began working at approximately 9:30 p.m. to clear and salt the roads of Brighton Township. Hooker was salting Dutch Ridge Road in his capacity as an employee for Brighton Township. Dutch Ridge Road runs in a general North and South direction in Brighton Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. At the southern end of Dutch Ridge Road, said road travels into the Borough of Beaver.
“In March, 2002, Brighton Township was required to salt and plow Dutch Ridge Road to Fifth Street in the Borough of Beaver. On March 22, 2002, while Hooker was salting Dutch Ridge Road near Fifth Street in the Borough of Beaver as part of his duties for Brighton Township, Officer Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims engaged in a verbal confrontation with him, using profanity. Hooker continued to salt Dutch Ridge Road, but was pulled over by Officer Wijnen Reims. Officer Wijnen-Reims approached the vehicle that James Hooker was operating and sprayed him with mace. Wijnen-Reims dragged Hooker from the salt truck and threw Hooker against his Beaver Borough Police Vehicle several times. Officer Wijnen Reims struck Hooker’s head off the rear of the police car on several occasions. Officer Wijnen-Reims threw Hooker to the ground and struck Hooker’s head on the pavement several times. As a result, Hooker was hospitalized. This incident was reported and made known to the police department of Beaver Borough, Borough Council, and was much publicized in the Beaver County Times.”
— “On July 7, 2003, Christopher Eric Green was summoned to the Beaver Police Station at the oral request of the Beaver Police. Once at the police station, Christopher Eric Green was taken to an interrogation room by Defendant Wijnen-Reims, who began to scream at him and accused Green of giving another Beaver Police Officer false information. Green told Officer Wijnen-Reims that he did not give false information and did not know what Officer Wijnen-Reims was talking about. Officer Wijnen-Reims used profanity and grabbed Green by his jersey. Green was pushed into a railing and to the floor where he was handcuffed and then picked up off the floor by Wijnen-Reims and thrown into a window in the police department. The window shattered as Green’s upper body went into the window. Green was arrested and taken to the Juvenile Detention Center of Beaver County. Green sought medical treatment for his injuries. The Borough of Beaver and the Beaver Police Department had actual notice of this incident.”
— “Prior to September 28, 2004, Robert Capo, Sr., had run for Mayor in the Borough of Beaver against a long-time incumbent Mayor, Robert Linn, who had a close and long-standing relationship with the Police Chief and Police Department. After that election, Capo, Sr. and his family were harassed by Officers of the Beaver Police Department. On September 28, 2004, Benjamin H. Capo, son of Robert Capo, Sr., was riding his bicycle in the Borough of Beaver, on Third Street, when he was stopped by Defendant Wijnen-Reims and issued a citation for failure to have a light on his bicycle. Benjamin Capo told officer Wijnen-Reims to mail him the citation after he (Capo) had provided Wijnen-Reims with his address and all necessary information to fill out said citation.
“Benjamin Capo then parked his bicycle and walked into a local restaurant. Officer Wijnen-Reims followed Capo into the retail store, placed him in a choke hold, and dragged him out of the store. Capo was thrown against the side of the police car by Officer Wijnen-Reims and arrested. Capo was taken to the Beaver Police Station and, upon entering the police station, was slammed into a glass door on several occasions. Officer Wijnen-Reims struck Benjamin Capo on the head with this clipboard and threatened to throw him down the steps.
“Robert Capo, Sr. came upon the scene when his son was being arrested and followed Wijnen-Reims and his son to the police station. Upon arrival, Robert Capo, Sr. was told to go to the front part of the police station. A short time later, Officer Wijnen-Reims instructed Robert Capo, Sr. to leave the station after he had requested to see his son. Robert Capo was placed in a choke hold around his neck and slammed against the wall by Officer Wijnen-Reims. Wijnen Reims handcuffed Robert Capo, Sr. and made the cuffs so tight that Capo Sr.’s wrist sustained lacerations and abrasions.
“Both Robert Capo and Benjamin Capo were charged criminally, but those charges were dismissed after a preliminary hearing held before Magisterial District Judge Douglas Loughner in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Both Robert Capo and Benjamin Capo sought medical treatment for their injuries. The Borough of Beaver and the Beaver Police Department had actual notice of this incident.”
— “On October 21, 2004, Lorri Stiles and Richard Doychek stopped at the drive-through window of the McDonalds’ Restaurant in the Borough of Beaver to purchase takeout food. While Stiles was sitting in the drive-through lane waiting to order, she observed what she believed to be an assault on a female worker at the restaurant. At that time, Richard Doychek exited Stiles’ vehicle to intervene between Walter Buckenheimer and his daughter, who was the female employee. At that point, an argument and confrontation began between Doychek and Buckenheimer. The police were summoned by way of a call to the Beaver County 911 Center.
“Defendant Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims responded to said incident and questioned Stiles.
“Stiles attempted to explain to Officer Wijnen-Reims what she had observed and what had led to the confrontation. Officer Wijnen-Reims recognized Stiles as the person who wrote an editorial about the Beaver Police in the local newspaper the previous year and told Stiles to “shut-up” and insisted that she was drunk. Stiles was arrested and transported to The Medical Center of Beaver County where a blood test was performed. No alcohol was found in Stiles’ blood. At that point, Stiles was transported to the Beaver Borough Police Department. While at the Police Department, Officer Wijnen-Reims told Stiles that he had called her husband and explained to him that Stiles was having sex with Richard Doychek.
“Stiles was kept at the Beaver Police Department for three hours and then transported to the Beaver County Jail where she remained for seven days. Officer Wijnen-Reims did call Stiles’ husband, Joel Koslicki, on October 21, 2004 and informed him that his wife was having sex with Doychek in the back seat of the police car and tested positive for Viagra. This information was completely untrue.”
— “On December 12, 2004, Adam Colbert went to Thursday’s Bar and Restaurant in Bridgewater, Beaver County, Pennsylvania 15009. Colbert arrived at approximately 10:00 p.m., and while present a fight started between several patrons of Thursday’s Bar who were not with Colbert.
“All patrons including Colbert were ordered/pushed outside the bar by Thursday’s security officers, and the Bridgewater Police were summoned. Defendant Wijnen-Reims responded in his capacity as a Beaver Police Officer to Thursday’s in support of the Bridgewater Police Department. The fight, which started in the bar, continued in the parking lot. Adam Colbert was standing in the parking lot when he was grabbed by Wijnen-Reims around the neck and slammed onto the hood of a police car. Colbert was maced by Wijnen-Reims, arrested, handcuffed, and taken to the Bridgewater Police Station.
“At the Bridgewater Police Station, Wijnen-Reims threatened to mace Colbert again. Colbert sought medical treatment for his injuries.”
— “Green, Robert Capo Sr., Benjamin H. Capo, Stiles and Koslick filed a federal lawsuit alleging a violation of their civil rights and state law claims against the Borough of Beaver, The Police Department of the Borough of Beaver, and Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania at C.A. No: 05-0863.
“Colbert filed suit, alleging a violation of his civil rights and state law claims, against the Borough of Beaver, the Police Department of the Borough of Beaver and Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania at C.A. No.: 05-1157.”
— “In 2010, Robert Michael Doyle, resided at 449 Sharon Road, Beaver, Beaver County, Pennsylvania 15009. On May 19, 2010, the Defendant, Officer Wijnen-Reims, while in his capacity as a Beaver Police Officer, received information from Franka Brendle that Robert Doyle had violated a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order, which had been entered for the benefit of Doyle’s daughter, Caitlin Doyle.
“Franka Brendle alleged that Doyle had violated the PFA Order by having his grandmother, Mary Ann Grossi, contact Caitlin Doyle at the Brendle residence. On May 19, 010, Officer Wijnen-Reims telephoned Doyle’s home. Wijnen-Reims spoke with Doyle’s mother, Sydney Doyle. Sydney Doyle attempted to explain to Officer Wijnen-Reims that the PFA Order allowed Doyle to have supervised visitation and to contact Franka Brendle to arrange said visitation.
“After speaking with Sydney Doyle, Officer Wijnen-Reims traveled to the Doyle household at approximately 10:30 p.m. Wijnen-Reims knocked on Doyle’s door, at which time Sydney Doyle answered the door. Officer Wijnen-Reims stated that he wanted to speak with Robert Doyle. Mrs. Doyle attempted to explain the PFA Order to Officer Wijnen-Reims and why Doyle had not violated that Order. Wijnen-Reims mocked Mrs. Doyle by stating “blah, blah, blah.” Officer Wijnen-Reims insisted on seeing Doyle. Doyle, who was resting, got up and came to the door. When Officer Wijnen-Reims saw Doyle, he pushed the door open and charged after him. Doyle back pedaled and fell onto the steps that lead to the upstairs of the residence. Wijnen-Reims deployed his taser and tased Doyle twice while Doyle was laying on the steps. Wijnen-Reims grabbed Doyle’s shirt and began to strike him about the head with his handcuffs and then pulled him to his feet and handcuffed him.
“As Defendant Wijnen-Reims pushed Doyle toward the front door, he slammed him down onto a coffee table. He picked him up and took him towards the same door from which Defendant Wijnen-Reims had entered the home. As he approached the door, Defendant Wijnen-Reims slammed Doyle’s head into the side panel glass window of the door thereby breaking it with Doyle’s head. Defendant Wijnen-Reims placed Doyle in the police car and took him to the Beaver Police Department. While at the Beaver Police Department, emergency medical personnel were summoned to treat Doyle and he was taken to the hospital for treatment that included numerous sutures to close lacerations to his face and head caused by Defendant Wijnen-Reims’ actions and conduct.
“Doyle filed a federal lawsuit alleging a violation of his civil rights and state law claims against the Borough of Beaver, the Police Department of the Borough of Beaver, and Jeffrey Wijnen-Reims in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania at Case No.: 11-0016.”