A Buffalo man plans to sue a police officer shown on video punching him in the head and another seen holding him on the ground in the midst of an arrest, his attorney said Thursday.
Quentin Suttles, 30, suffered a fractured shoulder blade and orbital bone as a result of the incident that followed a traffic stop on May 10, according to legal papers filed by his attorney in State Supreme Court Thursday.
The officers waited until the next day to get medical treatment for him, according to the court papers.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron C. Lockwood, the Buffalo Police Department and the City of Buffalo are named in the notice of claim, along with Officers Ronald J. Ammerman and Michael Scheu.
Lockwood and the Police Department failed to adequately supervise the officers and train them in proper protocol, including use of force, according to the papers filed by Suttles’ attorney, Joshua I. Ramos.
Suttles, who is black, was the victim of racial profiling by the officers, who are white, Ramos claims. He accuses the officers of using excessive force, abusing their authority, making a false arrest and unjustly imprisoning Suttles.
Ramos released a copy of the legal papers to local media outlets on Thursday, along with an edited video that combines footage from one of the officer’s body cameras, which he obtained through the legal process, with cell phone footage shot by a witness.
The day after the incident, Buffalo police officials said they had opened an internal affairs investigation into it. On Thursday, they said that the incident remains under investigation.
Three days after the incident, District Attorney John J. Flynn announced he was launching an investigation. On Thursday, his office declined to comment on the release of the video.
Ramos alleges in the notice of claim that the officers followed Suttles’ car around the city "for minutes." When Suttles “eventually committed a minor traffic offense,” the claim says, the officers pulled him over.
After Suttles stepped out of his car, “they had engaged in prolonged grabbing of his genitals while finding no contraband,” Ramos alleges in the notice of claim.
The video, which is 5 minutes and 10 seconds long, begins with a body cam video when the officers first pulled Suttles over at East Eagle and Madison streets around 6:20 p.m. May 10.
One of the officers is heard asking about marijuana. Suttles steps out of the car when an officer asks him to, stands next to the car and lifts both arms in the air while the officer pats him down.
About two minutes into the video, Suttles and the officer begin arguing. The officer, who is behind Suttles, tells him to take his hands out of his pockets. Suttles says his hands are not in his pockets.
During a brief skirmish, the image on the video is obscured. One officer tells Suttles to stop and put his hands behind his back. When the image comes back into focus, Suttles appears to be on the ground in the street, presumably with an officer on top of him.
He tells officers repeatedly he doesn’t have anything, an apparent reference to drugs. About two and a half minutes into the video, he calls to his passenger, asking her to record what is happening.
At that point, the video cuts from the body cam recording to the video shot by Suttles’ passenger. Two officers are seen on top of Suttles, with one officer repeatedly hitting him in the head.
“You can’t hit him like that,” Suttles’ companion yells.
One of the officers looks up and tells her, “He’s trying to eat the drugs,” then looks back down at Suttles and tells him repeatedly to stop.
Seconds later, Suttles tells the officers, “I’m dying.”
Toward the end of the video, there is blood visible on the street under Suttles’ head. Police did not find any drugs, according to his attorney.
Suttles was charged with multiple counts, including a felony charge of destruction of physical evidence and misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration.
Ramos released a short statement to news outlets Thursday and said he plans to hold a news conference on Friday.
“Generally, we think most officers are upstanding,” Ramos said in a written statement. “It’s the few that are the bad apples that make bad decisions that ruin it for the rest of them and ruin the public’s faith in the police.”
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