The editor of the Buffalo Jewish Review weekly newspaper claims he was beaten by police and insulted with crude anti-Semitic slurs during a traffic arrest in the Village of Kenmore last weekend.
But Kenmore police contend Henry Simon, 56, is making false allegations against them in an effort to cover up his drunken, disorderly and abusive conduct.
"They pulled me right out the side window of my car, threw me down on the pavement and whacked my head against the sidewalk," Simon said. "After they found my business cards for the Jewish Review in my wallet, they called me 'Jew boy' and other names, a lot worse than that."
Kenmore Police Chief Samuel Camilleri Jr. said the arresting officers deny that Simon was abused, either physically or verbally. Camilleri said officers did pull Simon out of his car and arrest him, but only after the editor screamed at police and tried to pull away from a vehicle safety checkpoint.
Camilleri described Simon's allegations as "absurd."
"They stopped him. He was not wearing a seat belt, and he became enraged, belligerent and abusive," the chief said of Simon. "He was red-eyed, slurring his words, and the officers found three open liquor bottles in his car.
"As one of the officers started writing a ticket, Simon tried to back up, and his car brushed into an officer's leg. Our officers had to pull him out of the car."
In an interview, Simon admitted he had one drink of vodka shortly before Friday's confrontation, but he denied police allegations that he was drunk.
Simon, a Buffalo resident, faces a Sept. 26 appearance date in Kenmore Village Court to answer charges of driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest, failure to wear a seat belt, unsafe driving and possession of open alcohol containers in his car. He also faces a state Department of Motor Vehicles charge of refusing to take a blood test.
The confrontation took place late Friday afternoon on Kenmore Avenue, where officers had set up a checkpoint to stop cars and see whether motorists were using their seat belts.
Simon insists he is guilty only of the seat belt charge. He said he intends to file a lawsuit and a federal civil rights complaint against Kenmore officers.
"I have already spoken to the FBI. I haven't filed formal complaints, but I am going to," Simon said. "Jews have stayed silent for too long about this kind of thing."
The incident must have been witnessed by "many" passing motorists around 5:50 p.m., not far from the busy intersection of Kenmore and Colvin avenues, Simon speculated. He said he hopes witnesses will come forward to report what they saw.
Simon said he was upset by the seat belt checkpoint because he was trying to reach a testimonial dinner in Amherst. He said he was not wearing his seat belt at the time because he does not believe in the seat belt as an effective safety device.
According to Simon, the checkpoint was creating a "chaotic" traffic jam, and police were stopping cars in such a disorganized fashion that some cars were bumping into each other.
Simon said he was frustrated and was trying to sneak past the checkpoint. As he did, Simon said, "at least two" officers forced his car to a stop, dragged him out of the driver's-side window and beat him. He denied that he did anything to aggravate the officers.
He claimed officers continued to harass him at the Kenmore police station lockup, and that they refused to return his car -- a 1997 Acura -- until Monday.
Camilleri denied that the officers dragged Simon out of his car through a window, or that they harassed him in the police station.
"Later in the evening, he complained of chest pains, and the officers called an ambulance to take him to Buffalo General Hospital," Camilleri said. "He left the hospital without getting any treatment."
According to Simon, officers asked him to take a blood test for blood alcohol content. He said he refused, but offered to take a Breathalyzer test instead.
"They told me, 'We don't use the Breathalyzer,' " Simon said.
That is true, said Camilleri. The department stopped using the Breathalyzer test in DWI arrests about 10 years ago because department officials believe blood tests give more-accurate readings, which are more difficult to dispute in court.
Buffalo FBI spokesman Paul Moskal said he could not comment on the incident, but added that it would be investigated thoroughly if Simon files an official complaint.