Northampton man sues city, police for $700K

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/11/2020 12:34:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A city man who was arrested and pepper-sprayed on the steps of City Hall in August 2017 is seeking $700,000 in damages, alleging police used excessive force during his arrest and local officials failed to properly supervise the city’s police force, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Hampshire Superior Court.

Northampton attorney Dana Goldblatt filed the lawsuit on behalf of Eric Matlock, who is currently serving a six-month sentence in the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction for a probation violation. It names as defendants the city, Police Department, Mayor David Narkewicz, Police Chief Jody Kasper, and police officers Clay Delano, Brent Dzialo, Andrew Carney, Kenneth Kirchner and Andrew Kohl.

Last year, as required by law, Goldblatt sent a preliminary complaint to the mayor in August 2019 announcing her client’s intention to sue. The city had six months to respond before any civil charges could be filed. In a letter attached to the preliminary complaint in August, Goldblatt said that the city’s conduct toward her client was “in part or in whole because he is of African-American and indigenous descent.”

Narkewicz and Kasper declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Matlock was acquitted in a September 2018 Northampton District Court trial of the charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and assault and battery on a police officer, charges that stemmed from his City Hall arrest. At the time of his arrest in 2017, Matlock was protesting the removal of two of his children by the Department of Children and Families.

The lawsuit alleges that Delano and Dzialo used excessive force against Matlock during his City Hall arrest and then defamed Matlock by claiming that he assaulted them.

“The Defendants Delano and Dzialo grabbed him, carried him, then dragged him, then pepper sprayed him, and then handcuffed him without justification or provocation,” reads the lawsuit.

It also alleges that Delano, Dzialo, Carney, Kirchner and Kohl engaged in a campaign of retaliatory arrests against Matlock and his wife, Pamela Matlock, after the City Hall arrest, for actions that are not crimes, such as the possession of hash oil and holding up a middle finger to a police officer. It also alleges that these same officers engaged in a harassment campaign against Matlock, in response to criticisms from the public of the City Hall arrest.

“Defendants Delano, Dzialo, Carney, Kohl, and Kirchner responded to the widespread criticism with a program of targeted harassment of the Plaintiff and his family,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also alleges Narkewicz and Kasper were negligent in supervising the police department.

“Defendant Kasper’s failure to train her officers is a direct cause of the unlawful arrests and baseless applications for criminal complaint described herein,” the lawsuit states.

The claim against Narkewicz hinges on allegations that the mayor “failed to investigate and sanction” Alan Borowski, a police officer who pepper-sprayed Jonas Correia in 2013 outside of the former Tully O’Reilly’s bar. Correia settled out of court with the city’s insurance company for $52,500 in 2016.

In addition to seeking $700,000, $100,000 on each of the seven individual claims, Matlock also seeks written apologies from each of the defendants.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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