An internal police investigation has exonerated Lt. Laurel Sheehan of any allegations made against her by a 14th Street woman who has filed a $36 million police brutality suit against the city.
Barbara Capton, 58, of 14th Street alleges she suffered a head injury when she was brutalized by Lt. Sheehan while she was being arrested for interfering with a burglary investigation in her neighborhood on Aug. 17, 1994. Mrs. Capton said she had to undergo brain surgery because of the injury.
Police Superintendent Thomas C. Zwelling said Tuesday "a lengthy and comprehensive investigation conducted by this agency's Internal Affairs Unit surrounding the allegations of police misconduct" shows Mrs. Capton's allegations to be unfounded.
"The investigation included interviews and statements from all known witnesses in regards to this matter" and no evidence could be found to support Mrs. Capton's allegations, Zwelling said. He said no Police Department policies or state penal laws were violated.
Zwelling said, "The complete investigation was reviewed by the Niagara County district attorney's office which concurs" with these findings.
In the meantime, Mrs. Capton has pleaded innocent to an obstructing governmental administration charge that was lodged against her after she allegedly impeded a police investigation into a burglary complaint that she called into police headquarters. She is scheduled to go to trial on that charge in May.
Police said Mrs. Capton was arrested because she followed officers who were looking for the alleged burglar and refused to leave the area, potentially placing herself and officers in danger.
In her lawsuit, Mrs. Capton alleges Lt. Sheehan choked her and pushed her while she was in police custody. Mrs. Capton said she immediately felt a popping sensation in her head and asked for medical attention, but was forced into a jail cell in a semi-conscious condition.
Mrs. Capton specifically names Lt. Sheehan, Zwelling and the city in her lawsuit.
An attorney with the city corporation counsel's office said the police investigators considered all evidence in arriving at their conclusion. He said the only possible evidence not considered would be evidence withheld from police by Mrs. Capton's legal advisers.