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Discrimination victim or 'recreational litigant'? Lawsuit filed in viral scuffle

A black man arrested last summer after a physical altercation with a white security guard in a downtown coffee shop has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that he was the victim of racial discrimination and other civil rights violations.

The incident, which was captured on video viewed widely on Facebook, resulted in charges against Darryl Mingo of Buffalo.

The charges against Mingo were later dismissed. The security guard was not charged.

Mingo, 54, has found himself on both sides of the law in the past. He also previously alleged employment discrimination in another federal lawsuit.

His latest lawsuit, filed Feb. 17 in federal court, accuses the City of Buffalo and three police officers of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and  other rights violations. The suit alleges the security guard and the guard's employer committed assault and battery. All defendants named in the lawsuit were accused of inflicting emotional distress.

The video of the incident "really speaks for itself," said Matthew Albert, Mingo's attorney. Albert said his client was arrested after police officers chose not to review available video and ignored witnesses who were trying to speak with them.

"They didn't need any evidence because they saw a black man, a black man of limited means, in a fight with a white man in a suit and tie," he said. "That's all they needed to know."

Mingo, who was arrested quickly after police arrived at the scene, had been charged with misdemeanor assault and two noncriminal violations, harassment and trespassing. A Buffalo City Court judge dismissed the charges against Mingo in October.

Mingo says he was in police custody for more than 24 hours.

The lawsuit identifies the security guard as George Bailey of the City of Tonawanda and his employer as Transwestern Investment Group LLC. Bailey was not working as security for Tim Hortons at the time.

James W. Grable Jr., Bailey's attorney, said the claims in the lawsuit are "completely without merit."

"The notion that George Bailey or anyone else who interacted with Mr. Mingo that day acted with wrongful intent or without justification is absurd," Grable said in an email. "Mr. Mingo is a recreational litigant who likes to use the federal court system to make false claims of race-based discrimination whenever he’s looking for a windfall of money."

Transwestern Vice President Richard Carlisle declined comment.

The three officers named in the lawsuit are Eric Augustyn, Joseph Petronella and Patrick Baggot. All three are white. A city and police department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The incident happened at about 8:30 a.m. July 19 in the Tim Hortons in the Liberty Building at Main and Court streets. Mingo had purchased breakfast sandwiches and a coffee, and went outside to wait for his order, Mingo said in an interview. The same circumstances were outlined in court papers.

When he went back inside to pick up his order, Bailey was waiting in line and likely thought Mingo was trying to skip the line, according to the lawsuit.

The video starts with the verbal dispute at the counter. A short time later, Bailey pushes Mingo's arm away as Mingo seems to reach for something on the counter. Then Bailey wags his finger in Mingo's face.

At another point, when Mingo reaches past Bailey, Bailey grabs him by the shoulder and shoves him, leaving Mingo on the floor, having fallen through a table and chairs. Mingo gets up, the two men stand face to face and appear ready to fight. They start pushing and Bailey slaps Mingo in the face. Then Mingo starts throwing punches and Bailey backs Mingo up against a window and throws a punch.

Near the end of the 5-minute video, police arrive and place Mingo in handcuffs.

Mingo admits he got upset, but he said that only happened after Bailey made physical contact with him. He said he told Bailey not to put his hands on him. That's when he says the guard slapped him.

"Once you smack me like that, we're going to fight," Mingo said in a phone interview with The Buffalo News.

Mingo said he no longer visits that Tim Hortons location.

Buffalo fracas goes viral: Why was black customer arrested but not white security guard?

In the past, Mingo has been both the victim of a crime and the accused perpetrator.

He was charged at least three times between 2001 and 2004 for violating orders of protection, according to Buffalo police reports. In April 2012, he was arrested at a gas station on Fillmore Avenue after an employee told police he was bothering customers, according to a police report. In that case, the charges included resisting arrest.

"He's made mistakes and he's been held accountable for them," his attorney said. "Now, it's time for the police to be held accountable."

Mingo also has been robbed, shot at, stabbed and had his home shot at and burglarized between 2002 and 2015, according to police reports.

In August 2014, Mingo filed a federal lawsuit against Mainstreethost, a digital marketing agency in Buffalo, alleging he was denied a promotion based on his race and disabilities. The case was dismissed four months later, upon Mingo's request. The differences had been resolved between the two sides, he wrote in court papers. The documents did not indicate what resolution was reached. A representative of Mainstreethost did not respond to a request for comment.

From the arrests to the other lawsuit, none of it has to do with what happened in the Tim Hortons last July, said Albert, Mingo's attorney, who reiterated that the incident is question was captured on video. The contents of the video are clear, he said.

Mingo's involvement with the law, on both sides, stems in part from the cycle of poverty and a lack of opportunity, according to Albert. The day before the incident at the coffee shop, Mingo attended his stepsister's funeral, Mingo said. Since then, Mingo has taken in her three children, according to Albert.

"We firmly expect character assassination to be part of any defense. That's pretty much the city's default defense in all these instances," he said. "Let's not look at what our guys did; look at who they did it to."

Charges dropped, lawsuit planned in case of viral Tim Hortons fight

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