Photographs included in court motions filed yesterday show a Beaver Police K-9 mauling a handcuffed man who was subsequently charged with taunting a police animal.
Beaver Patrolman Jeffrey Wijnen-Riems deployed his K-9 partner Czar during the arrest of James Edward Cicco back on August 18th, 2016. As the Beaver Countian has previously reported, Cicco was left with severe injuries as the result of the encounter that left him hospitalized for several days. Photographs published exclusively by the Beaver Countian show a large gaping wound to the man’s chest area.
Officer Wijnen-riems has alleged that James Cicco failed to yield to police who were responding to another call and failed to pull over when the officer attempted to stop him for the infraction. Cicco stopped approximately 1 mile from where the officer initially attempted the traffic stop after turning into his own driveway, where the officer alleges Cicco resisted arrest. Cicco was charged with dozens of counts as a result of the incident, including felony aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, felony taunting of a police animal, felony fleeing and eluding, and 54 felony counts of possession of a controlled substance (one count for each pill of prescription medication Cicco allegedly had in his possession that was in a bottle not labeled).
A Beaver County 911 Dispatcher and Officer Wijnen-Riems could be heard laughing and joking about the man’s injuries at the time on a recording obtained by the Beaver Countian from sources last November. County Dispatcher Jocelyn Sabol was suspended without pay for two days after the Beaver Countian published the recorded conversation.
An investigation into Officer Wijnen-Riems’ use of force during Cicco’s arrest, conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police at the request of Beaver Police Chief and Borough Manager Dan Madgar, found no criminal wrongdoing by the patrolman.
Officer Wijnen-Riems testified during a preliminary hearing in the case held on September 19th of last year that Cicco resisted and grabbed an electric hand-drill during the arrest — witnesses to the incident interviewed by the Beaver Countian alleged Cicco repeatedly yelled “I surrender sir, I surrender,” with his hands up in the air before the officer released his K-9 partner, and that the dog continued its attack against the man even after he had been handcuffed.
Dozens of the charges against James Cicco were dismissed by District Judge Edward Howe after the man’s preliminary hearing, including all felony drug charges and felony aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer. Cicco remains on track for trial on felony charges of taunting a police animal and fleeing and eluding law enforcement, along with misdemeanor possession and several other misdemeanor and summary offenses.
A police dash cam captured the entire incident on video which was shown in open court during a preliminary hearing for James Cicco. Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier denied a Right-to-Know request for the footage filed by the Beaver Countian last year — this publication continues to appeal that denial in an attempt to gain the public’s access to the footage.
The public is now getting its first glimpses at that arrest as the result of a motion filed by defense attorney Gerald Benyo with the court yesterday seeking to dismiss the remaining charges against Cicco. The court filing includes still images taken from the dash cam video as part of a second-by-second defense account of what transpired during Officer Wijnen-Riems’ arrest of Cicco.
Defense’s Version Of Events As Presented In An Omnibus Pre-Trial Motion Filed With The Court On January 17th:
(Note: The Beaver Countian has recropped and optimized video stills included in the defense brief to dimensions better suited for display in this site’s page layout. Timestamps referenced by defense in the brief are listed in minutes and seconds.)
“In the Criminal Information, the Commonwealth alleges that on or about the 18th day of August 2016, Defendant did kick and/or strike K-9 Czar. Officer Wijnen-Riems testified at the September 19, 2016 Preliminary Hearing that after Defendant had both hands handcuffed and was laying on the ground, Defendant kicked or kicked at K-9 Czar who made a sound and re-engaged biting Defendant until Officer Wijnen-Riems physically pulled K-9 Czar off Defendant. The Commonwealth provided a video (without audio) through Discovery from Beaver Police Department Unit 293’s dash cam which depicts the following.
a. At time marker 2:35, Defendant’s vehicle completely stops in his driveway.
b. At time marker 2:39, Officer Wijnen-Riems is at the driver’s side of Defendant vehicle opening the driver’s side door.
c. At time marker, 2:40, Officer Wijnen-Riems takes hold of Defendant’s arms and attempts to pull Defendant from his vehicle after twisting his left arm behind Defendant’s back and pushing him up into the front windshield.
d. At time marker 2:47, Officer Wijnen-Riems reaches for his firearm as he has a hold on Defendant’s left arm. Defendant’s left leg is clearly visible in the video and is not turned to the right to indicate Defendant leaning toward or reaching toward the passenger side of his vehicle.
e. At time marker 2:58, Officer Wijnen-Riems disengages from Defendant and heads back to his vehicle, Unit 293, to call for backup and release K-9 Czar to extract Defendant from his vehicle.
f. At time marker 3:01, Defendant steps out of his vehicle and displays both hands, palms forward, to Officer Wijnen-Riems indicating complete surrender and compliance with Officer Wijnen-Riems last commands to exit the vehicle.
g. At time marker 3:03, Officer Wijnen-Riems releases K-9 Czar at Defendant.
h. At time maker 3:04, Defendant re-enters his vehicle and closes the door.
i. At time marker 3:05, Defendant displays both hands, palms forward, up in front of the glass of the driver’s side door while inside his vehicle indicating again complete surrender and compliance with Officer Wijnen-Riems.
j. At time marker 3:06, Officer Wijnen-Riems has returned to Defendant’s vehicle and opens the door to allow K-9 Czar to assist him in forcefully removing Defendant from his vehicle despite Defendant’s surrender.
k. At time marker 3:06 until time marker 3:10, K-9 Czar is inside the Defendant’s vehicle physically attacking Defendant and pushing him into the vehicle while Officer Wijnen-Riems uses physical force pulling on Defendant until he is outside the vehicle on the ground.
l. At time marker 3:10, Defendant is on the ground outside of his vehicle.
m. At time marker 3:10 until time marker 3:22, Defendant is on the ground being attacked by K-9 Czar while he is physically drug from outside the driver’s side door of his vehicle to the left and toward his home by Officer Wijnen-Riems.
n. At no time from time marker 3:06 until time marker does Defendant resist, strike or attempt to strike out at either Officer Wijnen-Riems or K-9 Czar.
o. At time marker 3:21, Officer Wijnen-Riems begins to attempt to pull K-9 Czar off Defendant with one hand while holding Defendant’s wrist with the other as Defendant is screaming in pain and displays the physical agony of the canine physical force being used against him.
p. At time marker 3:23, Officer Wijnen-Riems takes hold of K-9 Czar’s collar with both hands and begins to attempt to force K-9 Czar to release his jaws from the flesh of the right upper side of Defendant’s body.
q. At time marker 3:23 to 3:38, Officer Wijnen-Riems continues to use both hands to pull K-9 Czar off Defendant (lifting Defendant bodily off the ground several times as he pulls K-9 Czar’s collar) while Defendant lays limp without making any movements against Officer Wijnen-Riems or K-9 Czar.
r. At time marker 3:38, Officer Wijnen-Riems is successful in pulling K-9 Czar off Defendant as he continues to lie on the ground with his hands up, palms out, not resisting.
s. At time marker 4:05, Officer Wijnen-Riems has Defendant’s right hand in handcuffs and is in complete control of Defendant’s left hand and arm as Defendant is lying face down on the ground.
t. At time marker 4:06, Officer Wijnen-Riems brings Defendant’s left hand up behind Defendant’s back without resistance from Defendant who remains face down on the ground.
u. At time marker 4:06.90, Officer Wijnen-Riems brings his right knee down into Defendant’s upper back/neck/shoulder area despite there being no resistance from Defendant.
v. At the time that Officer Wijnen-Riems brings his right knee down onto Defendant’s upper back/neck/shoulder area, K-9 Czar is at least 3 to 4 feet from Defendant who is completely compliant, severely injured and in a state of severe shock.
w. At time marker 4:07.10, Defendant’s lower leg involuntarily rises only because of Officer Wijnen-Riems bringing his right knee down onto Defendant’s upper back/neck/shoulder area. Defendant remains face down flat on the ground and the video depicts Defendant’s foot moving straight up and down and not coming anywhere close to where K-9 Czar is located.
x. At time marker 4:08, Officer Wijnen-Riems secures Defendant’s left hand into handcuffs so that both of Defendant’s hands are handcuffed behind his back as he lays face down on the ground.
y. As of time marker 4:08, Defendant is completely at the mercy of Officer Wijnen-Riems and K-9 Czar and is injured and unable to defend himself.
z. At time marker 4:12, K-9 Czar attacks Defendant while he is handcuffed lying on the ground motionless, biting and clawing at his side and back.
aa. At time marker 4:13.33, Officer Wijnen-Riems realizes that K-9 Czar has re-enaged and is biting and clawing at Defendant and Officer Wijnen-Riems begins to attempt to bring K-9 Czar under control with verbal orders.
bb. At time marker 4:21, Officer Wijnen-Riems gets both of his hands-on K-9 Czar’s collar and begins to attempt to stop the canine from biting, clawing and tearing at the flesh of Defendant’s upper body as he is handcuffed on the ground injured and not resisting in any manner.
cc. At time marker 4:24, Officer Wijnen-Riems literally lifts Defendant off of the ground (as he remains unresisting and in handcuffs) as he pulls back on K-9 Czar’s collar as K-9 Czar is biting into and holding on to Defendant’s flesh.
dd. At time marker 4:37, Officer Wijnen-Riems is able to pull K-9 Czar off Defendant.
ee. From time marker 4:37 until time marker 5:09, Defendant remains motionless while handcuffed on the ground. Officer Wijnen-Riems is out of camera range securing K-9 Czar.
ff. At time marker 5:21, Officer Blinn approaches Defendant while Officer Wijnen-Riems is standing over Defendant who remains injured and handcuffed on the ground.
gg. At time marker 5:30, Officer Blinn bends over and lifts Defendant (who is lying face down on the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back) up by Defendant’s left arm.
hh. At time marker 5:33, Defendant is able to get his feet underneath him and begins to stand while Officer Blinn is lifting him by his left arm.
ii. At time marker 5:34, Defendant is standing upright and Officer Blinn begins to move Defendant forward toward the hood of Defendant’s vehicle. Defendant is not resisting or leaning back to any degree.
jj. At time marker 5:35, Defendant is slammed against the hood of his vehicle by Officer Blinn as Officer Wijnen-Riems stands and watches. There is no resistance by Defendant who remains severely injured with his hands handcuffed behind his back. The impact is with sufficient force to cause the 3,828 pound 2 door Ford Explorer vehicle to rock back and forth.
kk. At time maker 5:35.90 the video depicts Defendant’s impact with the hood of his vehicle causing his feet to leave the ground.
To establish a violation of 5511.2, the Commonwealth must establish that Defendant willfully or maliciously kicked and/or stuck K-9 Czar. Officer Wijnen-Riems testified that the only time Defendant allegedly kicked at or kicked K-9 Czar was after his knee came into contact with Defendant’s back and Defendant had his right and left hands handcuffed behind his back. Preliminary Hearing Transcript page 51. The mens rea required for a violation of 5511.2 is “willfully” or “maliciously” action or conduct of the accused – an intentional act.
In this case, the testimony of Officer Wijnen-Riems along with the video dashcam footage clearly depicts no kicking by Defendant toward K-9 Czar and, at best for the Commonwealth, only shows Defendant’s upper leg/foot moving involuntarily as Officer Wijnen-Riems brings his knee down onto the upper back/shoulder/neck of Defendant.”