A Pennsylvania couple is suing three police officers, claiming their rights were violated during a tense confrontation captured on cellphone video.
Kia Gaymon, 38, and her husband Michael Gaymon, 35, of Collingdale filed a lawsuit against the borough as well as three police officers.
The lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred at the couple’s Collingdale home back on February 22. The couple says it all began when Mr. Gaymon’s mother visited their home and partially parked her car on their next-door neighbor’s curb. The neighbor called police and three Collingdale officers soon arrived.
According to Mrs. Gaymon, one officer began to yell at her and her husband in an “aggressive and accusatory manner,” and asked which one of them spit on their neighbor. The couple told the officer they had done nothing wrong and that their neighbor was falsely accusing them.
The lawsuit accuses the officer of getting within inches of Mr. Gaymon’s face while screaming at him.
“His behavior was so aggressive that the first thing I thought was to pull out my phone and video,” Mrs. Gaymon said.
Mrs. Gaymon began to record the officer as she stood outside her front door. The lawsuit claims the officer noticed her recording and walked toward her, demanding that she stop.
“He told me that if I continued to video he was going to come in my house and confiscate my phone and place me under arrest,” Mrs. Gaymon said.
According to the lawsuit, the officer told Mrs. Gaymon she couldn’t record him because it violated Pennsylvania’s wiretap statute. Mr. Gaymon and the couple’s 21-year-old daughter Sanshuray Purnell told the officer he was wrong however and that she had the legal right to record. The lawsuit states the officer then told Mrs. Gaymon that if she didn’t stop recording him he would enter her home, take away her cellphone and arrest her.
After Mrs. Gaymon refused to let him inside the home, the officer allegedly moved towards Purnell, handcuffed her and threatened to use his taser against her. Mrs. Gaymon says a second officer then escorted Purnell away from the scene.
The first officer then allegedly entered the home, ignoring the couple’s demand s that he not come inside.
The lawsuit accuses the officer of grabbing Mrs. Gaymon, pushing her against the wall and holding his taser against her chest.
“I panicked,” she said. “I was scared.”
The lawsuit states the second and third officers then placed Mrs. Gaymon under arrest and removed her from the home.
Mrs. Gaymon and her daughter were taken in separate vehicles to the Collingdale Police Station. Cellphone video shows Gaymon’s 10-year-old son sobbing as officers take her and her daughter away. The mother and daughter were held at the Collingdale Police Station and later received citations for disorderly conduct.
“The actions that are described in the citation are for videoing the officer,” said the family’s attorney Jonathan Fienberg. “It’s not a crime.”
In 2012, the Department of Justice issued a letter stating individuals had a “First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties.” In Philadelphia, several policies state officers can’t take cellphones or arrest citizens for recording them. Some departments have even placed cameras on officers, an action supporters say prevents misconduct and protects the officers.
Mrs. Gaymon and Purnell appeared for a trial on May 22. After hearing their testimony, the judge dismissed the charges against them.
The Gaymons’ lawsuit claims the officers, “had no legal cause to believe that any plaintiff committed any crime” and that they “maliciously initiated a criminal prosecution” against Gaymon and Purnell. The lawsuit also accuses the officers of illegally entering the home without a warrant.
NBC10 reached out to the Collingdale Police Chief. He told us he was advised not to comment on the lawsuit.